By Mark Ackerman
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – Thousands of teachers from across Colorado protested at the state Capitol Friday, including teachers from the Boulder Valley School District, which pays its teachers 45 percent above the state average.
The BVSD teachers are marching in solidarity with their colleagues in an effort to raise awareness to school funding disparities across the state.
Last week, CBS4 visited two fifth grade classrooms at Heatherwood Elementary in Boulder County.
From the playground, children enjoy a view of the Boulder Flat Irons. The school was built in 1971 and gets about a quarter of its power from a solar farm on the campus.
In the fifth grade classrooms, every student has access to a chrome book computer. The Boulder Valley School District hopes to soon have a 1:1 ratio of chrome books to students district wide. The district also has its own internet fiber lines to provide lightning-fast internet to its students.
"Boulder Valley should be a gold standard," said fifth grade teacher Chris Newby. "Those kids have the world at their fingertips and I can give it to them."
Boulder Valley teachers have a lot at their disposal, too. The district pays its teachers an average salary of $75,000, which is more than any other district in the State.
In a district that spans from Nederland to Broomfield, 158 teachers in BVSD make over $100,000, according to an open records request of teacher salaries.
"People are clamoring to get into Boulder Valley," said Newby who said the highest salaries translate into an excellent applicant pool for the few job openings that exist.
Boulder Valley is an affluent district where the average household income is $107,000. BVSD's average teacher salary of $75,000 is higher than average teacher salaries in other affluent districts like Cherry Creek, $71,000, Aspen, $58,000, Douglas County, $53,000, and Academy 20 in Colorado Springs, $48,000.
For comparison purposes, the average household income in Douglas County School District is $138,000, Academy 20 District, $125,000, Aspen School District $117,000 and Cherry Creek School District is $108,000.
COMPARE AVERAGE TEACHER SALARIES, HOUSEHOLD INCOMES AND DISTRICT PERFORMANCE RANKINGS ACROSS THE STATE BELOW:
"We kind of sit on top of a mountain," said Newby. "But this is where other districts should start."
Fellow fifth grade teacher Anna Lyttle says BVSD's secret is that time after time residents vote to support their schools.
"Even people who don't have children in Boulder and Boulder County are clearly willing to increase taxes to support teachers," she said.
"Boulder is Boulder, there is no other way to put it," said Newby. "With a university here the people value education."
At Heatherwood Elementary teachers don't have to pay for classroom supplies.
"I get a budget to work with. I don't have to reach into my pocket like almost every other teacher is the state to buy pencils," he said.
Newby says paying teachers more provides better outcomes for students.
"Happy employees do a better job," he said. "Kids are what it's all about."
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