By Mark Ackerman
STERLING, Colo. (CBS4) – This week teachers from across Colorado are leaving school and meeting at the state Capitol to protest the lack of school funds.
In the northeast corner of the state, 124 miles away, Samantha Fennell teaches kindergarten in Ayres Elementary School in Sterling, where teachers earn 26 percent below the state average.
"I wanted the little town to feel like it," said Fennell, who moved from Front Range to Eastern Plains.
The day she visited CBS4, she was teaching 21 students how to read.
"I love working with children," he said. "Adults can be a bit dubious sometimes"
After four years of teaching at Valley School RE- 1 District, Fennell earns $ 31,229. She has not received an increase since she was hired.
"The first two years was a little discouraging," he said, "it was hard to keep working."
Generally, teachers do not receive promotions. Instead, they build their salaries little by little, step by step.
A novice teacher in the school district RE-1 Valley in Sterling earns $ 29,793. After 10 steps, of approximately $ 700 each, she can expect to earn $ 36,256. In most school districts, one step equals one year. But, Fennell has locked himself in Step 3 since it started.
"The dream would be to have children and raise them here in Sterling, where I love to teach," he said. "But, reality right now I can not." There's no way I can afford it. "
With student loans of about $ 25,000 at the top, even at Sterling, it's hard to make it work.
"Our cost of living is similar to the Front Range. I can not afford to buy a house or invest in my community, "he said.
Fennell takes on additional responsibilities to earn more money, including tutoring and summer school, she says that some teachers in Sterling are waiting tables after work, or working as janitors.
RE-1 Valley Superintendent Jan DeLay says something needs to change.
"I go to Home Depot and one of my math teachers helps me on a Saturday," she said. it is there because it is working there. "
The district has gone to a four-day week to reduce the costs of buses and facilities Low wages also generate teacher turnover and vacancies Long-term subs without degrees Teaching is used to plug holes when a more qualified teacher can not be found Sterling voters demolished the tax increases two years in a row.
"The inequality of compensation for these teachers is simply wrong," he said. "The quality of a child's education in the state of Colorado should not depend on where they live."
However, somehow in the midst of the cuts, RE-1 Valley is making progress in the performance framework of the Colorado Department of Education's school district. In a city where many parents do not have a college degree, children go to college and succeed.
Instead of protesting at the Capitol with colleagues across the state on Friday, teachers at Sterling will leave the school and protest locally at the Logan County Courthouse. They plan to circulate petitions asking citizens to put a state initiative on the ballot to increase taxes for school funding.
Lee Fetters, who teaches an English teacher in high school, leads the effort.
"I would like you to know that we are not against them," Fetters said. "We're in Colorado, we're all in this together."
Fennell said he wants his contribution valued.
"I take my job very seriously," Fennell said. "It's a kick in the face when it's not considered as important as someone else's work."
Despite his salary freeze, he spends between $ 500 and $ 800 each year on school supplies, doing anything to give his students an advantage. 19659006] "It's a great thing to help raise someone else's children and educate them," he said.
Friday night at 10 p.m. M. CBS4 will take you to the Boulder Valley School District, which pays more to teachers in Colorado – approximately twice what teachers are doing in Sterling.
Click here to see an interactive map with information on how teachers are paid to live.
Mark Ackerman is a producer of special projects on CBS4. Follow it in [Twitter] @ackermanmark