Breaking Bad Systems

I came across this post on NextDoor the other day…

The crux of what this poster is asking for is a refund if services aren’t rendered due to COVID.

It’s a bad idea – namely because teachers in Colorado are already underpaid – in fact, Colorado is dead last according to data from the average starting teacher salary from the National Education Association (NEA).

Graph courtesy of

When classrooms have to be jam-packed in order to receive proper funding, we’ve screwed up our priorities and the systems utilized for determining how schools are funded need to be re-evaluated.

Colorado is 13th lowest in terms of per-student spending. Source:

This equates to a higher burden on the teachers and parents to fill in gaps in supplies and materials.

Make no mistake: this is a privileged position to be in. Not all parents can afford to do this, even though many do; we know teachers cannot and that’s why they ask for help from the parents.

This “everybody pitch in” place of privilege is the same mindset that calls for parents to “volunteer” in the classroom as teacher aides because the District cannot afford the additional face time, additional staff, or reduced class sizes that would improve educational outcomes and reduce teacher workload.

This is not to say that either the Poudre School District or the Teachers or Administration aren’t all working themselves to death for the best possible outcomes. They are – and that’s the problem – they’re working themselves to death because they have too few resources. How long can you sustain a world-class education by draining every possible source of assistance around you dry?

So parents are asked to volunteer – those households with two earners by necessity cannot often take off time to enjoy their children in this setting and their kiddos miss out; these parents cannot be as involved as they would like, these teachers have to double-down on their efforts and spread even more of their attention across a wider area.

When combined with a teacher’s low starting salary, Colorado is creating a big problem by kicking this can down the road.

When parents have to make the choice between sacrificing their careers to homeschool or sending their kids back to school during a pandemic so they have some support, societally we have some better questions to ask than, “Hey, since you’re not gonna deliver services exactly as we’re used to even though there’s a global emergency happening, can we get a refund?”

“Overall, Colorado teachers are paid 40% less than the average salary Coloradans in other jobs are making, earning around $56,000 a year. Entry-level teachers are being paid almost 30% less, with an average income of $33,000 a year. If a teacher moved from Denver, Colorado to New Orleans, Louisiana, their standard of living would improve by about 50%.”

Source: Colorado Ranks Last in America for Teacher Salaries |

We cannot ignore the rampant effects of bad systems based on privilege and externality-stacking that we’ve built or inherited. Magical thinking doesn’t make better schools, build better budgets, or cultivate more creative problem solvers.

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