Teachers strike for third day in Colorado town

Teachers in Pueblo, Colo., walked out of schools for a third day of protests on Wednesday as the state deals with its first teachers strike since 1994.

Nearly 17,000 students in the school district were out of classes, NBC reports, while teachers are demanding a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and an extra $30 per month for health insurance.

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School board officials told NBC News that the district can't afford the teachers' demands, which strike organizers say are long-standing with the school board.

“Nobody disputes that all teachers deserve more. Certainly ours here in Pueblo,” said Pueblo School District communications director Dalton Sprouse, who added that the district was "not in a condition that we can fund" the demands.

High school teacher Julie Cain told NBC that she and about 900 other teachers chose to forgo their paychecks to strike this week.

“We both knew wholeheartedly that we were going to be out here for our kids for as long as it takes," Cain said, referring to herself and her husband, also a teacher. “It’s frightening and unsettling right now because we are both leaving pay as we stand out here in the heat every day."

Union organizers voted to strike over the weekend after school board officials approached them with an offer of a $1,000 bonus, a cost-of-living raise next year, and $50 per month for health insurance, NBC reports.

Cain said, however, that the strike is about more than paychecks, pointing to dilapidated school supplies and high teacher turnover in the district.

"It’s pretty frustrating," Cain told NBC. "Sometimes we have old textbooks that are falling apart. We don’t have computers in our classroom."

“Teachers have a voice here," she adds. "The midterm elections are going to be reflective of who is going to support us and who is going to fix this mess.”

The Colorado strike follows similar strikes across the nation in states such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma. The strike in West Virginia, earlier this year, was the longest in the state's history and led to state lawmakers capitulating to demands for higher pay and improvements to public health insurance.