Two Republicans in the Colorado legislature have sponsored a bill that would penalize teachers with jail time if they go on strike.
Two Republicans in the Colorado legislature have sponsored a bill that would penalize teachers with jail time if they go on strike. The bill, SB18-264, was introduced on Friday — the same week that teachers visited the Colorado state capitol in Denver to demand better pay, more school funding, and to lobby against a bill that would gut the pensions they’ve paid into their entire career. The bill’s proposal also comes just before teachers’ mass demonstration at the state capitol on Friday, April 27.
While the six-page bill has yet to undergo any votes — let alone a committee hearing — its language is troubling for teachers who may be contemplating a strike as a means of pressuring lawmakers to listen to their demands. If the bill was passed and signed into law, public schools that employ teachers who go on strike would be authorized to seek an injunction from a district court. Striking teachers could then be found in contempt of court, which could subject them to fines and up to six months imprisonment in county jail.
As Grit Post reported last week, several hundred Colorado teachers — mostly from the Denver area — descended onto the capitol in a demonstration against low teacher pay, the lack of funding for public schools, and a bill that would cut pensions for state employees. Even though US News ranks Colorado as the #1 state economy in the entire United States, National Education Association statistics rank the state’s average teacher salary #46 out of 50. Colorado’s per-student spending is #25 out of 50, with less appropriations on a per-student level than even Kentucky (#17 out of 50) and West Virginia (#19 out of 50), both of which have hosted mass demonstrations by teachers demanding better pay and more funding for public education.
SB18-264’s sponsors, Rep. Paul Lundeen (R-Colorado Springs) and Sen. Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs), did not return Grit Post’s requests for comment about SB18-264. Colorado Education Association spokesman Mike Wetzel was not immediately available for comment. This article will be updated if either Rep. Lundeen, Sen. Gardner, or Wetzel respond.
Logan Espinoza is a freelance contributor specializing in economic issues. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and daughter. Contact him at logan DOT espinoza AT yahoo DOT com.