As teachers from across the state marched on the Capitol, many school districts had to close. None of our three Routt County school districts were included in this list, but this does not mean our teachers aren’t facing many of the same indignities that teachers across the country are protesting - quickly disappearing pension benefits, high burnout rates caused by the pressure to produce unrealistic results, and the inability to afford housing and childcare for their families, to name a few.
Like my grandmother, I have committed myself to public service through education. As a teacher, I worked with some of the most struggling children on the Front Range. I moved to Routt County to support teachers and schools with early literacy instruction, and since I arrived, have worked with teachers across northwest Colorado to improve outcomes for students. This year, my first class of students will graduate high school. In the time I’ve been in education, I have seen teachers leave the profession in droves - sometimes to work in more lucrative fields, sometimes to stay home with their children, sometimes just to save their sanity. I have encountered the teachers I work with in their second jobs as bartenders or baristas because they can’t make enough to pay their rent. This is not what the profession is meant to be.
It is time to stand up for teachers and fight for education funding at the state and national level while doing what we can locally to support these public servants.
We must hold our elected officials responsible for the dignity of educators and their families. The future of our democracy depends on these dedicated public servants, and they should be treated as the professionals they are. Every teacher should be able to buy a home in the community they serve. Every teacher should have a safe place for their children while they are at work. Telling them how important they are is not enough - we must act to show them that they matter.
In Routt County, average teacher salaries range from $40,078 in South Routt to $54,064 in Steamboat, with Hayden at $51,325. Over the past few decades, Colorado has failed to adequately fund education, which means that coupled with rising healthcare costs and increased employer contributions required for PERA (which funds teachers’ pensions), even the best-intentioned superintendents and school boards are unable to provide teachers with wages commensurate with their cost of living.
As an educator, I join teachers across the country in stepping up to advocate for our future. Teachers like me are running for office across the country. At first, it might not seem like an obvious next step. But, as teachers, we work everyday to bring people together for a common goal; we are committed to a vision for the future; and we are acutely aware of how the decisions of elected officials can impact a community, positively or negatively. We teachers are well-positioned to be leaders within our communities, and I would be so bold as to say that we will do a darn good job.
I am optimistic about our future. The momentum for change is strong. I will stand with teachers here in Routt County by advocating for the solutions we need to support our families. Efforts to increase affordable housing and access to childcare will ensure that these dedicated public servants are able to live and work in the communities to which they have committed themselves. I will always speak for the families that are the lifeblood of Routt County.
We are building a grassroots campaign. That means we need people power to connect with the voters in our community. Will you forward this email to a few friends and then sign up to join the team? Let’s go build the future of Routt County together!