Do We Value Public Education?

Posted on: May 21, 2019
Posted By: Christine Wiggins
Posted in: Educator Stories

Dear Board of Education Members,

I am a veteran teacher of 31 years. I began teaching with the noble intention that I would be able to make a difference in the lives of children, and every day I go to school and work with my students I feel I am making this difference. When I gained employment in Jefferson County School District in 2006, I came in with 16 years teaching experience, however, the district would not match my years experience. I started much lower on the pay scale believing that I would be financially stable as long as I continued to progress on the pay scale. I stayed in Jeffco through pay freezes and continual increases to the cost of benefits, as I am devoted to this district, students, and families.

My marriage ended in 2009 and I became a single mom raising a young child by myself. Prior to the divorce, it was difficult to meet financial obligations, but at least I had a second income contributing. After, I decided to go back to school and get my Masters acquiring thousands of dollars in student loan debt in the process. I told myself this would increase my overall income to help support my family. In 2010 right before I was to hit a step and level increase that would increase my pay by nearly $4000 a year, which I desperately needed, our pay was frozen. We were told our pay would be made up over time, and all of us that sacrificed our income and livelihoods believed that. Needless to say, I continue to pay on my student loans while raising a child, who is approaching his own high school graduation. To get by and support my own family, I’ve taken on up to three extra jobs to try and pay off student loans. Ironically, through all of this I have not been able to save for my own child’s college. Now he is considering either going into the military, in order to get education benefits, or taking out student loans which will certainly cause him years of debt.

We believe that public education has the power to stop the cycle of poverty, yet public education keeps educators in a cycle of poverty. On top of everything, I still can’t retire after 31 years in the profession because my pay was never reinstated as we were all promised. Years of lost compensation has drastically lowered my retirement. I have fought for my students and community for years, and felt elation when we finally passed 5A and 5B this fall. These funds now need to be spent investing in the professionals who bring years of experience to our students. The district has benefited from our sacrifices over the years and now it’s time to support us through compensation that is fair, respectful, and gives dignity to professional educators like me. Maybe someday, I will only need to work two jobs to make ends meet.

Respectfully yours,

A teacher who is committed to her students,

Sharon Sloan

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