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Teacher shortage town halls kick off Wednesday in Ridgway

Cost of living and salaries likely big topics of discussion
Colorado education agencies will begin a series of town halls throughout the state to study factors contributing to a shortage of public school teachers.

DENVER – The state’s departments of Education and Higher Education will hold the first in a series of town halls Wednesday in Ridgway to learn what’s driving down enrollment and graduation rates of Colorado’s teacher education programs since 2010 .

This will be the first of 10 meetings held across the state this summer. The meetings are a result of House Bill 1003, which was sponsored by Rep. Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango. HB 1003 was signed into law last month

The departments in charge of the study will incorporate local perspectives and circumstances.

The gap between teacher salaries and the cost of living in different communities is likely among the top issues.

A recent study conducted by Douglas Bissonette, superintendent of School District C-1 in Elizabeth, found that only 13 of the state’s 178 school districts paid an average wage that met or exceeded the cost of living for their communities. All six of the districts in the Southwest Colorado – Bayfield, Durango, Dolores, Ignacio, Mancos and Montezuma-Cortez – pay an average wage below the cost of living.

Of these districts Durango 9-R has the smallest cost of living gap at 13.48 percent, or $7,627, and Mancos has the largest at 28.8 percent, or $14,394.

The data gathered from these town halls will be used to draft a strategic plan with recommendations for the legislature on how to address the issues.

The series of town halls will include one to be held at Ignacio High School either Aug. 14 or 15.

People who cannot attend the session are encouraged to take a survey available through the Department of Higher Education’s website, where a list of the locations and times of the town halls is also available.


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