Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Friday that he will help push for the state to pay back about $1 billion borrowed from education during the recession.
The governor spoke to several thousand teachers gathered at a park near the state Capitol on the second straight day of demonstrations over pay for teachers.
“We see you. We hear you,” said Hickenlooper, who wore a red checked shirt and spoke for less than five minutes. “We are working with you, not just today.”
However, Hickenlooper didn’t offer any funding above what has already been proposed for next year.
Some teachers shouted over him “We want more,” while others applauded his pledge.
Lawmakers in Colorado have agreed to give schools their largest budget increase since the Great Recession. But teachers say Colorado has a long way to go to recover lost ground during the downturn and stick to the provisions of a voter-approved amendment aimed at increasing school funding and countering the effect of the state’s strict tax-and-spending limits.
Colorado and Arizona teachers donned red shirts and descended upon their Capitols for a second day in a growing educator uprising.
Educators in both states want more classroom resources and have received offers either for increased school funding or pay, but they say the money isn’t guaranteed and the efforts don’t go far enough. The walkouts are the latest in demonstrations that spread from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky.
The tone Friday in Denver was more festive than the day before.
A jazz band warmed up the crowd by leading them in songs like “Marching on Freedom Land.” Teachers danced along, while others kept some beach balls bouncing over the crowd at Civic Center Park.
The band then joined teachers in a march to the Capitol, as drivers honked their car horns and police stopped traffic to let them cross the street.
On the first day of the historic statewide walkout in Arizona, around 50,000 educators and their supporters marched Thursday through downtown Phoenix in nearly 100-degree heat and swarmed the Capitol grounds.
Gov. Doug Ducey again skipped the chance to address them.
Instead, the Republican governor’s public relations machine sent out links to a series of interviews the previous day with TV news reporters where Ducey pushed his plan to boost teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020, talking point by talking point.
Ducey, has proposed 20 percent raises by 2020 but said he has no plans to meet with striking teachers or address other demands.
Teachers voted to walk out after Ducey unveiled his plan, saying that it failed to meet their other demands including about $1 billion to return school funding to pre-Great Recession levels and increased pay for support staff.
“We’re going to get this 20 percent pay increase, we’re going to get $100 million for support staff and other needs,” he said on KTAR radio. “And then if there’s still a teacher strike I don’t think that will make sense to parents, I don’t think that will make sense to kids.”
More than 840,000 students were out of school as a result of Thursday’s walkouts, according to figures from The Arizona Republic.
Most of Arizona’s public schools will be closed the rest of the week, and about half of all Colorado students will see their schools shuttered over the two days as teachers take up the Arizona movement’s #RedforEd mantle. In Oklahoma and West Virginia, teacher strikes stretched beyond the one-week mark.
Organizers say they haven’t decided how long their walkout will last.
“We want to make sure we can gauge the membership about what they want to do,” said Derek Harris, one of the organizers of grass-roots group Arizona Educators United.
One major Phoenix-area district, Chandler Unified, said Thursday it planned to reopen schools Monday but reversed itself Friday, saying schools would remain closed “based on the number of teachers who have reported their absence for Monday.”
Associated Press reporters Bob Christie and Paul Davenport contributed to this report.