Clear Creek teachers ask for higher pay

Teachers, parents hold walk-in Monday morning to show solidarity

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 5/16/22

Clear Creek educators let school district officials know on Monday morning that they wanted a professional, living wage when they staged a walk-in to show solidarity.

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Clear Creek teachers ask for higher pay

Teachers, parents hold walk-in Monday morning to show solidarity

Posted
Clear Creek educators let school district officials know on Monday morning that they wanted a professional, living wage when they staged a walk-in to show solidarity.
 
Teachers, some parents and a few community members stood outside the district’s three school buildings before school started, holding signs and calling out chants asking the school board to provide them with a larger salary increase than is being offered. When the bell rang, teachers returned to their classrooms to educate their students.
 
In March, the Clear Creek County Education Association, the educators’ union, asked the school board for a 15% wage increase to provide them with a wage that would allow them to live in the county and would make up for the years when they received no raises or limited raises.
 
At the last bargaining session, the teachers asked for an 11% raise plus step increases, which equals about a 2% increase, and a $3 per hour increase added to every level of the classified staff salary schedule. The school board offered a 6.25% increase plus a step increase for teachers, and a 7.25% increase plus a step increase for classified staff. 
 
A point of contention is how much money the school district has in its reserves that the teachers say could be put toward salaries. The union says there’s more money than the school district says there is.
 
“We think using a reasonable amount of the reserves that is sustainable for a few years makes sense considering how far behind we are in salaries,” Jill Stansbury, CCCEA vice president, said.
 
Superintendent Karen Quanbeck, who represents the school board in negotiations, said the board is working on a new offer, but board members are nervous about using too much reserve money for salaries because that pay increase might not be sustainable in the next few years.
 
Part of the problem with providing salary increases, both the teachers and administration agree, is the way education is funded from the state. The school district is projecting a decrease in enrollment for the 2022-23 school year, which means even less money to operate the district.
 
“To give a compensation increase that is larger than we know we can support after a few years doesn’t make fiscal sense,” Quanbeck explained.
 
By the numbers
In the 2021-22 school year in Clear Creek, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no teaching experience earned $38,709, while the starting salary in Jeffco Public Schools was $43,274 and in Platte Canyon was $37,030.
 
A 15% increase would bring the starting salary for Clear Creek teachers to $44,515 in the 2022-23 school year. If teachers received an 11% salary increase, the salary for a teacher with no experience and a bachelor’s degree would move to $42,967. If the teachers received a 6.25% salary increase, that same teacher would make $41,128.
 
District staff missed out on raises on and off over the last decade when the district didn’t have money in its budget to afford salary increases. However, the district made salary increases a priority since 2016-17, when a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience had a starting salary of $32,000.
 
Walk-in at Carlson
More than a dozen staff, parents and community members — wearing red for education — stood in front of Carlson Elementary Monday morning, holding signs that said, “The future of the world is in my classroom,” “Walk-in for our students” and “Invest in Education.”
 
They chanted slogans such as, “You left us no choice. We have to use our teacher voice,” and “Teachers and families must unite. Education is a right.”
 
Teachers said they wanted a professional wage so they could afford to live where they work, noting that the salaries they make don’t allow them to live in Clear Creek County.
 
Andrea Tibbets, who lives in Idaho Springs and has no students in the schools, said she joined the walk-in because the school district has a history of not retaining teachers because of pay.
 
“We have good teachers now,” she said. “We need to pay them a living wage.”
 
Nick Juenemann, a former Carlson paraprofessional and a parent, said he understood the educators’ struggle, noting that they could drive down the hill for better pay rather than staying in Clear Creek. He considered teacher turnover the school district’s biggest problem.
 
Parent Shantell Gurley dropped her daughter off and then picked up a sign to stand in solidarity with the teachers.
 
“I agree we need good educators,” Gurley said. “To do that, we have to pay them good wages.”

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