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A Colorado bill would punish striking teachers with jail time, firing, and fines

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Colorado teachers are planning to strike, beginning Thursday, to protest for higher wages and increased school funding. But a Colorado bill would subject striking teachers to fines, termination and jail time. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Teachers in Colorado plan to start the latest in a string of teachers’ strikes across the nation later this week, but state lawmakers have drafted a bill that could send teachers to jail for not going to work, KMGH-TV reported.

What’s the story?

Like teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona have or will, Colorado teachers are planning to strike beginning Thursday to protest for higher wages and increased school funding.

However, two state lawmakers have sponsored a bill that aims to prevent the strike; not by increasing funding, but by increasing penalties.

Two Republican lawmakers, state Rep. Paul Lundeen and state Sen. Bob Gardner, introduced SB 18-264, which would authorize school districts to seek injunctions from district court to prevent teachers from striking.

Teachers who strike anyway would be held in contempt of court, subjecting them to fines, termination, and up to six months of jail time. Teachers would also not get paid for any days they participated in a strike.

“The bill prohibits public school teachers and teacher organizers from directly or indirectly inducing, instigating, encouraging, authorizing, ratifying, or participating in a strike against any public school employer,” the bill reads.

Also, the bill would punish unions for being found in contempt of court by dictating that the union “cannot represent public school teachers or collect dues from them for one year, and a public school employer is prohibited from negotiating with the organization during that time.”

Why do the teachers want to strike?

Colorado teachers earn an average salary of $46,155, ranking 46th in the nation. The state spends about $2,500 below the national average on a per student basis, ranking 42nd in the nation.

“Our spirits are buoyed by what West Virginia, Oklahoma has accomplished so far,” Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado state teacher’s union, said. “It’s time to step up for Colorado’s kids and their educators.”

Some school districts have been forced to cancel classes already for a planned “Day of Action” by teachers on Friday.

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