This week gave Colorado a little taste of the teacher activism that’s rocked other states. The several hundred teachers who came to the Capitol on Monday used what started as a lobby day related to proposed changes to the pension system to march around the Capitol, rally on the steps, and call for more school funding in general. They were joined by House Democrats who urged them to help pass a $1.6 billion tax increase for education this November.
A lot more teachers are expected to come to the Capitol this coming Thursday and Friday, from Jeffco, Denver, Cherry Creek, Adams 12, Poudre, and more. Districts are canceling classes or, in the case of Denver, planning for an early dismissal, with some of the city’s homegrown charter networks also joining the action. Meanwhile, teachers in Pueblo have voted to strike after the school board there voted down raises.
Colorado teachers aren’t striking en masse, at least not yet and possibly not ever. Teachers coming to the Capitol generally are using allowed personal time to engage in political activity. Nonetheless, two Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would prohibit strikes by public school teachers. The bill sponsored by state Sen. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs and state Rep. Paul Lundeen of Monument also prohibits public school employers from “consenting to or condoning” a teacher strike. Teachers who violate an injunction against a strike could face fines or jail time for contempt of court, as well as immediate termination with no right to a hearing. Local teachers unions found in contempt would see their collective bargaining agreements rendered null and void and would be barred from representing teachers for a year.