Moffat County teachers hold ‘walk-in’ in support of statewide protests for increased education funding
CRAIG — A number of Moffat County teachers gathered Friday morning to rally in solidarity with thousands of Colorado teachers gathering at the state capitol to demand a funding increase for education.
About 50 Moffat County educators, school administrators and supporters assembled on the sidewalk in front of the School Administration Building about 7:30 a.m. Friday.
Many of them wore red, as part of a campaign to wear “red for ed,” started by West Virginia teachers, who went on strike in demand of better pay and benefits. Drivers passing the group on Yampa Avenue occasionally gave them honks of support.
Moffat County teachers elected to “walk-in” at the School Administration Building before Friday’s teacher workday. Four Moffat County educators also traveled to join rallies at the state capitol.
“It allows us to express our opinion and let everyone know that we support what they’re doing in Denver,” said Lauren Pontious-Powell, literacy coordinator at East Elementary School and co-president of the Teacher’s Association. “Then, we all go to work, so it’s a way for us to still support our kids. That’s important to us.”
Teachers from every school in the Moffat County School District were invited to attend.
Pontious-Powell said several bills that have raised concern among educators are making their way through the legislature, including SB 18-200, which would modify teacher benefits paid through PERA, the Public Employees’ Retirement Association.
“We’re just trying to make sure they don’t make any changes that will negatively affect our educators,” Pontious-Powell said. “We have one of the best economies right now in the country, but we’re not seeing any of that turn around for our students. I think that’s really what teachers are getting upset about, is that, for many, many years, we have not properly funded our schools, and now, we have the money, and we’re still not properly funding our schools. As teachers, the kids are really what we’re all about, so it’s important to us to make sure that they’re getting what they need.”
According to the Colorado Education Association, Colorado’s schools are currently underfunded by $822 million and are $2,700 below the national average in per-pupil funding. Only Oklahoma and Arizona spend less than Colorado on services for students with special needs.
Moffat County School District Superintendent Dave Ulrich said he was proud that Moffat County’s teachers chose to gather in the way they did and that they brought the community’s attention to “what better we can do for our kids.”
“We need the best people in front of our kids that we can possibly get, and to do that, we need to be competitive, and being competitive includes salary and benefits,” Ulrich said, as he stood with educators in front of the administration building. “Ultimately, if we can accomplish those things, it’s a good thing for kids.”
In early April, pinwheels were planted on the lawn at McDonald’s in Craig to help raise awareness of National Child Abuse Prevention Month.