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Littleton teachers rally for school funding

Inadequate state support means overcrowded classrooms and overworked staff, educators say


Teachers across Littleton Public Schools joined colleagues statewide advocating for better school funding on April 16, holding a brief before-school rally to drum up support for what they call needed fixes to the way the state pays for education.

Amanda Crosby, a social studies teacher at Arapahoe High School who is also the president of the Littleton Education Association, the union that represents LPS teachers, is helping lead Littleton educators in rallies for school funding measures in a state that ranks near the bottom nationwide in government support for public education.

The result of the lack of support, Crosby said, is overcrowded classrooms, insufficient support for special education programs, and high rates of teacher exhaustion.

“We've had to cut some class offerings,” Crosby said. “We're doing a lot more with a lot less. The stress levels of educators is incredibly high and leading to quite a bit of burnout. Even in Littleton, we're losing people from the profession to do other things that are less stressful or more financially lucrative. We can't go any further. We're at the end of our rope dealing with these funding problems.”

Teachers at 18 LPS schools held a “walk-in” on the morning of April 16, meaning they rallied streetside before the start of the school day, waving protest signs at parents dropping their kids off. The rallies concluded at the sound of the first bell, and the school day proceeded as normal.

“Like people in many places, we're frustrated by the amount of spending on education,” Crosby said. “The difference in Colorado is we can't have our Legislature raise taxes to support education or anything else. We need to raise awareness of these problems right now, because it'll be the people who decide to make a change.”

The bottom line is the desire to create a nurturing learning environment for students, said Kathy Stocking, a first-grade teacher at Runyon Elementary School.

“I've got 28 students in my class this year,” Stocking said. “I'd really like that to be down around 20. More kids means fewer times a child gets to share or have one-on-one time with a teacher.”

Hiring and retaining teachers is becoming more difficult, Crosby said, because starting salaries are low and young teachers may burn out after a few years.

Jenna Southern, a special-education teacher at Runyon, said stagnant state funding is impacting her ability to provide for the kids she teaches.

“We've had the same amount of funding for the last seven years, but we're getting more and more kids in the program,” Southern said. “Our case load numbers are growing. We want to be able to service our children's educational needs, and it's getting more difficult. We need more support staff so kids can get what they need.”

Pay rates mean many young teachers struggle to get by in a place with high housing costs, said Trudy Meisinger, Runyon's principal.

“The cost of living in Colorado is ridiculous,” Meisinger said. “How can we expect teachers right out of college, or even those with a few years' experience, to be able to live in this city?”

Enabling teachers to live near their schools impacts students too, Crosby said.

“If you live near where you teach, you have an easier time sponsoring or coaching at the school, and you have better connections with students,” Crosby said. “With housing costs around here, as well as with teachers facing down hefty student loans, they often have to live far away or with multiple roommates.”

Littleton Public Schools Superintendent Brian Ewert expressed support for the rallies in an email to parents on April 16.

“LPS employs outstanding teachers, and I supported their efforts this morning,” Ewert's email read in part. “I want to thank our teachers for their attention to these important issues that not only adversely affect teachers, but also every student and family in LPS.”


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