Time is running out for teachers to convince lawmakers to change education funding

DENVER – A lack of time may be the biggest obstacle standing in the way of teachers convincing state lawmakers to change the way education is funded in the state and find more money for Colorado classrooms and teachers. 

“Unfortunately the legislature will be adjourning in about two weeks and it’s a long time to January and memories kinda get short around the golden dome,” State Rep. Jim Wilson, R-Park County, told Anne Trujillo on this week’s Politics Unplugged.

Rep. Wilson was joined on the broadcast by Amie Baca Oehlert of the Colorado Education Association.  She says she knows the timing isn’t perfect, but it’s part of a movement that’s larger than Colorado.

“I think really this started to grow from activism starting to happen all across the country,” Baca Oehlert said.  “I think as they began to see educators across the country use their voices to speak up for their students they decided the time is now in Colorado to use our voice.”

Representative Wilson is a former school superintendent who says he knows that school funding is a complex process and there is no silver bullet. But he says he thinks his colleagues at the state capitol are really beginning to see how the process works.

“More and more legislators are starting to become educated and that’s one of the good thing about everyone being around talking about the educational issues is that we get an education,” he said.

Wilson says many of the issue that are arising in the debate are actually decisions that are made at the individual district level, not by lawmakers. Baca Oehlert says teachers understand that.

“I would say there is certainly an understanding that money flows from the state down to districts and you know districts make decisions, budget decisions with those dollars,” she said adding that teachers are well aware of how Colorado’s budget stabilization actions in the past have led to shortfalls in education funding that are slowly being reduced. She says that’s why the teachers are at the capitol.

“I think what they’re coming down to say is, ‘Help us buy that budget stabilization down by more so that our districts are not making difficult decisions between do we spend our resources to attract and retain quality educators that we know are so important in the classroom or do we do program x y or z.’”

Politics Unplugged airs Sundays at 4:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Denver7.

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