Teachers in Colorado and Arizona left school on Apr. 26 and rallied at their state capitals to protest low education funding. School districts across Colorado, including Douglas County, decided to cancel classes due to the number of teachers taking a personal day to protest. Several students and teachers from Vista participated in the protest, with a goal of making a difference in how the government treats its students and teachers.
“I wanted to advocate for my students, my colleagues, and most importantly, my profession,” journalism teacher Mark Newton said. “As a citizen I must stand up for what I believe is best for my community.”
Mountain Vista teachers, along with teachers across Colorado, believe the state’s booming economy should be able to support more funding for teachers, students and education.
“I want my students to have the resources necessary to receive a quality education. DCSD shells out $530 per kid per year, which pales in comparison to Cherry Creek’s amount of $1,600 per kid,” spanish teacher Benjamin Westlund, said. “All of us in Douglas County have been doing more with less for too long, and soon, if nothing changes, we are going to see a decline in our district’s performance and quality, which will impact everyone in our community, from homeowners to business owners to churches.”
While teachers advocated for the student funding, they also advocated for themselves for higher wages.
“One cannot be serious about improving schools, particularly student performances, without paying teaching adequately to not only get into the profession, but stay in, and stay in for a long, long time.” Newton said.
One question many are curious about is why teachers decided to protest now. It is possible that teachers were inspired by the “March for Our Lives” protest, or the Women’s March; both of which have occured in the last few months. Americans participated in these marches to exercise their second amendment right to peacefully protest.
“Democracy is not a spectator sport,” chemistry teacher Heather Rigg said. “One of the things that became a regular chant throughout the day was ‘This is what democracy looks like!’ [and it] really spoke to me. I firmly believe that it is our job as citizens to be advocates for the changes we want to see.”
“My need to be a part of the rally really started years ago. When I approached voting age, my parents stressed civic duty and the importance of making sure we voted to support our public schools,” librarian Julie Jacobs said. “We had an obligation to make sure future generations had access to a quality, public education.”
Teachers from every department gathered together for one cause, the students. The faculty hopes the demonstrations this week will create more awareness about the issues around teacher pay and school funding.
“When people realize that students have just as much to lose [as] teachers, they will get on board with our cause,” Westlund said.
Photos by Gabe Barnard