Colorado Lawmakers seek to jail teachers amidst multi-state walkouts

Colorado Lawmakers seek to jail teachers amidst multi-state walkouts

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As a wave of teacher strikes sweeps across the United States, Colorado lawmakers are introducing legislation to prohibit an upcoming public school teacher strike. State teachers are joining others in Arizona, Kentucky, and Oklahoma to strike for an increase in education funding.

SB18-264 prohibits public school teachers and teacher organizations from directly or indirectly inducing, instigating, encouraging, authorizing, ratifying, or participating in a strike against any public school employer. In the event of a strike or the imminent threat of a strike in violation of the bill, the public school employer is authorized to seek an injunction from the district court.

Failure by a public school teacher or teacher organization to comply with the injunction constitutes contempt of court and may be punished with fines or up to 6 months in county jail, or both. It also stipulates that if a public school teacher is found in contempt of court for failure to comply with an injunction, the bill directs the public school employer to immediately terminate his or her employment, without a hearing.

Teachers across Colorado plan for a massive walk out on Friday the 27th of April. Colorado ranks 46th in the nation for average teacher pay and 42nd for per student funding. According to the National Education Association’s (NEA) annual report teachers in Colorado receive an annual salary of $46,155; which is seven-thousand dollars below the national average.

These strikes will follow a wave which began in West Virginia which began on February 22nd, then spilled over into Oklahoma where the school week was reduced to four days due to belt tightening measures. Kentucky teachers have also gone on strike to protest planned pension reforms which they believe will cause teachers to leave the state and discourage new teachers from coming in. Arizona teachers are also going on strike from Thursday for an increase in pay for themselves and support staff as well as overall education funding.

Colorado’s attempt to stop the strike is the latest attempt to stop the spread of teacher strikes. Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin (R) is facing an ongoing backlash over comments he made blaming striking educators for child abuse and rape. In Oklahoma, Governor Mary Fallin (R) said that the teacher’s demand for a higher salary was like “a teenager wanting a better car” and in Arizona, prominent Republicans have called the vote in favor of the strike by teacher unions a politicised sham.

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