We Cannot Afford Not To Invest in Our Education Workforce

The following is the written testimony of Colorado educator, Anthony Abel-Pype, submitted to the House Education Committee Hearing on HB23-1001, Expanding Assistance For Educator Programs. HB23-1001 supports student teachers toward the goal of diversifying the teacher workforce. While all students benefit from having a diverse teaching staff, students of color especially see tremendous benefits like improved academic performance and increased likelihood of going to college. This legislation is a continuation of HB22-1220, Removing Barriers to Educator Preparation, a bill we championed last session that paid for teacher exam fees, expanded pathways to licensure by allowing multiple ways to demonstrate competency, and paid teacher candidates for student teaching work. HB23-1001 was passed by the House Education Committee on January 26, 2023.

I submit this letter as written testimony for my support of HB23-1001 Expanding Assistance for Educator Programs. 

I have been a teacher in Denver Public Schools for 14 years serving students that qualify for free and reduced lunch at a rate of no less than 80% in any given school year over my career. 

18 years ago I had a decision to make about the career I wished to pursue, and while my options were wide open, a career in education was one I was highly interested in. However, I had hesitations due to time commitments of teachers as well as low starting salaries and low overall potential career earnings over a lifetime. One factor that helped push me into a career in education was the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program as it helped to curb the cost of the loans I had to take out to complete my education. Also, I am proud to say that just recently I was informed by the Department of Education that I have met all the requirements of the program, and the remainder of my student loan balance has been forgiven.

Next, in my career in Denver Public Schools, two issues have stood out every year that has been detrimental to student outcomes. First, people leave the career prematurely. This hurts students as it creates instability in the education system as teachers cycle in and out needing time to gain knowledge and experience to be effective educators. Next, a severe lack of diversity in the field. As someone who has worked in schools that have 90% students of color, I am confident that if there were more people in education that students could more closely relate to culturally, they would become more engaged in their studies and buy into the education process. Imagine if everyday you went to school and you could not relate to the  overwhelming majority of people in power. It is easy to imagine how that would negatively impact motivation. And, I have had a front row seat to how students are impacted when they have educators they feel understands them. 

Bills that can offer incentives, financial and otherwise, for people in general, and people of color in particular, to choose a career path in education, and to stick with it, will go a long way to improving student outcomes in the state of Colorado. This means more students graduating, more students pursuing higher education at traditional colleges and universities, as well as technical colleges. Ask any administrator in education right now about how recruiting and retaining high quality educators is going, and it will be extremely clear that any and all programs to help find and retain high quality educators should be a top policy priority. 

Education has, and always will be, an investment in the future society and economy. You may ask how the state can afford to do this, and I would counter with: how can we afford not to? 

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