Protesters, teachers advocate for public education funding

Julia Trowbridge

Bo Evans holds a sign with his daughter sitting at his feet
Bo Evans and his daugher, Nyla Evans join in on the protest on Drake and College, advocating for educational funding. Nyla Evans, a third grade student at Dunn Elementary, has noticed the disappearance of the gifted and talented program at her school as well as the technology teacher no longer working at her school (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

Hundreds of people showed up at the corners of Drake and College in an event created by the Poudre Education Association to raise awareness about the issue of the lack of public education funding.

While the national media has been focused on states like West Virgina, Colorado is facing educational funding issues as well. Colorado was ranked 50 in teacher competitive wages in 2016 and was ranked 40 in per pupil spending in 2013, according to Great Education Colorado statistics. 

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The event was created for those who supported the movement, but couldn’t make it down to Denver for the protest that received national attention.

“It’s time for our state to fully fund our education system,” said Jason Nurton, a member of PEA and a public educator for 17 years. “We’ve been working under a cut budget now for 15 years, and each year it’s a little worse and a little worse… and we’ve been doing so much for so little for so long now they want us to do everything but nothing, and it’s time for that to stop.

The protest was timed with the Senate Bill 200, which would propose changes to the Public Employee’s Retirement Association, a retirement program for state employees, Nurton said. 

We’ve been doing so much for so little for so long now they want us to do everything but nothing, and it’s time for that to stop.” -Jason Nurton, PEA member and public educator

For some in the Fort Collins community, the lack of public education funding is personal. One of the protesters, Ben Adams, stood on the intersection of College and Drake because his wife is a school teacher and he has a two-year-old child.

“We are out here to make sure the interest of our students are being looked after,” Adams said. “We also have a two year old, so her future can be affected by what teachers are being paid and who is being hired, so we want to make sure we stay competitive in Colorado to bring in the best teachers possible.”

Wytick holds a sign of support
Jean Wytick, a former English professor at Colorado State University, protests on Drake and College. Wytick, who taught for 35 years, states that teachers are underpaid, underappreciated and overworked, especially in the liberal arts subjects. (Julia Trowbridge | Collegian)

There were also protest participants that weren’t involved in public education, but felt that the cause was important enough to support.

Larson Ross, a senior political science major, came to stand in solidarity with the teachers that were protesting.

“I think that it’s important for the community to show support for any kind of strike,” Ross said. “Any worker community that is isolated is not going to be able to get it’s demands met. We have to work together in solidarity in order to achieve those goals.”

Towards the end of the protest, a petition was brought around to bring an increase in taxes to fund education to a legislative setting.

While increasing taxes seems deterring to some people, Sparrow Evans was hopeful in increasing funding for schools. The petition advocated for state taxes to be increased by an amendment of the Colorado Constitution and those funds being deposited in a dedicated public education fund in order to fund an appropriate amount of money for early childhood through high school education. 

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The entire Evans family was at the protest to support teachers. Nyla Evans, a third grader at Dunn Elementary, noticed that the gifted and talented program was cut, as well as the technology teacher at her school.

“We don’t think we should cut funding for education, and maybe we need more funding,” Bo Evans said to his daughter, reminding her why they were protesting. “Because schools don’t have enough teachers, which equals less time for you.”

Collegian reporter Julia Trowbridge can be reached at news@collegian.com or on twitter @chapin_jules.