Thousands march for teacher, student rights in Denver

Austin Fleskes

 

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  • Stephanie Gutierrez Hansen, a 9th, 10th and 12th-grade teacher at Poudre High School, speaks to a crowd of thousands at the state capital during the second state-wide teacher walkout to demand higher pay and better funding for schools. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

  • Tanya Jorres, a teacher at JFK High School in Denver, wears letters written by graduating seniors that outline everything they didn’t have that would have helped them during their time in school. Jorrres joins thousands of teachers, students and community members during the second state-wide teacher walkout to demand higher pay and better funding for schools. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

    Collegian | Davis

  • Becky Pringle, Vice President of the National Education Association, speaks to a crowd of thousands at the state capital during the second state-wide teacher walkout to demand higher pay and better funding for schools. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

  • Thousands of teachers, students and community members descended on the capital Friday afternoon during the second state-wide teacher walkout to demand higher pay and better funding for schools. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

  • Thousands of teachers, students and community members descended on the capital Friday afternoon during the second state-wide teacher walkout to demand higher pay and better funding for schools. (Davis Bonner | Collegian)

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The voices of thousands echoed through downtown Denver on Thursday and Friday. “Fund our schools,” “Red for Ed” and more chants rang out from those marching. 

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Teachers, students and community members marched through downtown Denver to the state capitol on Thursday and Friday to rally for rights of teachers and students. 

This rally aimed to bring together teachers, students and community to raise awareness for issues such as better pay and more funding for schools. 

“The momentum is here and the support is here,” said Naomi Rose, an elementary school teacher in the Cherry Creek School District. “It’s time for us to get a voice.” 

Those in the crowd wore red shirts in support of the #RedforEd campaign which is taking place around the country, including in states such as Arizona, West Virginia and Oklahoma. 

According to Chalkbeat, an education news site, between Thursday and Friday 27 school districts across Colorado closed for the rally. 

Those in attendance began the march at the Civic Center Park and marched to the state capitol. Many crowd members held signs that read statements such as “Fund our Future,” “Classrooms not corporations” and “Don’t make me use my teacher voice,” among many others. 

Brandon Price, a theater teacher in the Aurora Public School district, said that at his school he had large class numbers but are losing positions because of funding. 

“Our classes are already oversized, underfunded and we are not getting the funding we need,” Price said. “If we can’t fund our classrooms, how are we going to support our students?”

Casey Callan, a first and second-grade literacy teacher at Century Elementary School, said she went to the rally to support her students and families that she teaches and to show them that if they believe in something then they should advocate for themselves and stand up for what they believe in. 

“Teachers are no longer going to stand for the lack of funding in Colorado,” Callan said. “(Legislators) need to fix that, and we are here to show that today.”

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Becky Keene, a first and second-grade writing teacher at Century Elementary School, hopes that legislators see that teachers are voting and they will watch who they vote for, specifically looking for those who care about education.

“Education is one of the most, if not the most, important thing we should be fighting for and no one seems to really care about it lately,” Keene said.

As the crowd gathered on the west steps and out on the lawn of the state capitol, several teachers, students and faculty from school districts across Colorado spoke about their experiences. 

Becky Pringle, the vice president for the National Education Association, explained that education as a civil right that needs to be fought for. 

“Educators all over Colorado and across this nation are rising up and saying ‘enough,'” Pringle said. The crowd responded to this by chanting “enough” in unison. 

Pringle also announced to the crowd that they are not alone in their fight. 

Kinette Richards, the Cherry Creek School psychologist, explained that she was very proud to stand on the steps and represent her position.

Stephanie Gutierrez Hansen, a ninth, 10 and 12-grade teacher at Poudre High School, explained her struggles with finances after becoming a teacher. 

“I spent half of my paycheck on rent each month,” Gutierrez Hansen said. She further explained that Colorado places 39 in the country for education funding. 

Gutierrez Hansen addressed legislators by saying that it is time to begin funding schools. 

“It’s time you help better support our schools, but more importantly our children,” Gutierrez Hansen said.

She finished off her speech by, once again, addressing Colorado legislators.

“If not you, then who?” Gutierrez Hansen said. “If not now, then when?” 

Collegian reporter Austin Fleskes can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @Austinfleskes07