2021 Colorado State of Education Report titled "Where did all the educators go?", a report by the Colorado Education Association

The Colorado Education Association is the voice of public education in Colorado. Our 39,000 members represent every part of the state and are bearing the brunt of the multiple challenges facing our state’s public education system.

We are teachers, counselors, social workers, nurses, bus drivers, food service workers, paraprofessionals, mechanics, security guards, custodians, maintenance workers, office professionals, and anyone who works in a public school and together, we’re called educators.

While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on educators, students and families for nearly two years, the problems facing public education in Colorado pre-date the pandemic.

This report is based on publicly available data, news articles, cited research and proprietary surveys of CEA members conducted in December 2020 and October 2021.

Photo of Colorado Education Association members carrying a CEA banner at a rally for fair pay and benefits

A Public Education System at Risk

Unfortunately, the state of public education is that the system is near crisis.

Click on each issue area to learn more.

Inadequate Funding

Colorado still ranks at/near the bottom when it comes to starting educator pay, wage competitiveness and per pupil funding.

Educator Burnout

Exponentially increasing workloads and bitter political vitriol over health, safety and history curriculum are causing intense educator burnout.

Educator Shortage

The lack of funding, inadequate conditions and burnout has led to a critical educator shortage. As educators flee the profession, Colorado is struggling to replace them.

An empty classroom with student desks, various school supplies on the desk, and lights dimmed

What version of Colorado do we want to be?

One where chronic underfunding short-changes our children?

Or a state that is proud of delivering an exceptional education to prepare all students in every zip code to follow their dreams of success?

Exceptional Support for Public Education

Voters, Parents, Community Members Are With Us

The Colorado Education Association, parents and voters have had a long, committed relationship — one that is firmly rooted in giving students an exceptional public education, no matter the color of their skin, where they live or how much money their parents make.

Harstad Strategic Research conducted a voter poll in September 2021 for CEA to gauge the public on issues that affect public education. The results showed broad support for Colorado public educators and issues that serve and protect students.

Construction workers show their support of educators at a Red for Ed Day of Action.

Value of Educators

Nearly 75% of Colorado voters voice positive feelings toward teachers.

Approval of Teachers’ COVID Process

At 63%, voters overwhelmingly trust teachers’ handling of COVID as compared to their local school district.

Student Safety

Coloradans are far more inclined to trust teachers to “make decisions relating to keeping students safe at 59% versus 11% for state/school officials.”

Support of History Curriculum

By an 89% to 6% margin, Coloradans are more likely to vote for a school board candidate who “supports students learning the complete and honest history of our country – including the good and the bad parts.”

Our Legislative Priorities

CEA’s legislative agenda is one that puts students first and addresses the challenges we are facing as educators.

Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining provides a way for educators to have a genuine voice in advocating for their students and profession. The bargaining process is an opportunity for educators and school administrators to work together to identify and solve the problems and challenges facing our students, the schools they learn in and the educators who serve them.

Educators’ working conditions ARE our students’ learning conditions. Colorado local public employees, no matter where they work, should have the right to join a union and collectively bargain so they have a seat at the table and a voice in their service to Coloradans.


Many students aren’t getting the education they deserve because teachers & support staff don’t have what they need – they’re overwhelmed with excessive class sizes, outdated textbooks, unfunded mandates and paychecks that often don’t even pay the bills.

Certain politicians and wealthy special interests have balanced the state budget on the backs of Colorado students for years, creating a $10 billion deficit in public education funding over the past 10 years. We need legislators to commit to buying down the budget stabilization factor to give Colorado students and educators the resources they need.


Tens of thousands of educators have spent their careers serving students in our public pre-K through 12 education system. The Colorado Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA) helps provide every educator with the dignity of retirement security.

We need a commitment from the Colorado legislature to pass legislation that will honor the promises made by the state to educators that will ensure the viability and sustainability of PERA for generations to come.

Accountability Bridge

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted education in many ways. A pause in the Accountability frameworks for the 2020-2021 school year was a welcome recognition of the pressures the pandemic placed on students, families and school systems. There was very little debate among stakeholders and legislators about the pause, given the collective understanding of the limited assessment data that would be available to uphold the integrity of the process.

Now we must have a thoughtful transition as we move from the limited and inconsistent data of the past two years back to fully implementing the current law. Without a transition, simply turning the accountability system back on is fraught with issues that will impact the integrity of the accountability system and could cause unnecessary harm to students, schools and districts.

Colorado Education Association members rally in front of the Colorado state capitol building wearing red and carrying signs and banners