Denver Teachers Prepare to Strike as Union Negotiates For Better Pay

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Teachers are currently in the process of negotiating better pay with Denver Public School. If negotiations fail, teachers plan on striking starting January 28th.

An informational paper handed out by the Denver Classroom Teachers’ Association sites three primary reasons for this potential strike. The first is a lack of competitive pay for teachers; according to the sheet, many teachers struggle to afford homes, forcing them to move out of the very communities they serve and sometimes even resulting in them abandoning teaching altogether.

A teacher with 16 years of experience and a Master’s degree makes $65,000 per year in Denver, as opposed to Cherry Creek and Boulder, where a teacher with the same level of experience makes $87,000 and $86,000, respectively.

If the current DPS proposal goes through, “teachers will fall below the average increase needed to keep up with cost of living in Denver.” a Union representative for the DCTA said.

Furthermore, one Union Representative claims that DPS refuses to bargain in good faith. “At the last bargaining session (1/15/19), scheduled to go from 9am-5pm, the district left around 11am and never returned. The district has been sending false information about how much money they are proposing to add to our salaries. Several teachers have reported false information on the salary calculator.” the representative wrote in an email. “This week they have spent most of their energy in sending out propaganda to teachers, parents, and the media as opposed to focusing on the negotiations. The last superintendent, Tom Boasberg, refused to even come to the bargaining table. So far Susana Cordova has attended the bargaining sessions.” The representative concluded.

Many teachers also believe that DPS has a bloated administrative staff that gets paid far more than necessary for doing very little. “I think the best way to avoid a strike would be to reallocate some of the money going to administration to teaching staff.” One teacher told the Surveyor.
“The district claims to value students, but they cannot put students first when they put teachers last.” Another teacher said.

On the other side of the debate stands DPS’ new superintendent, Susana Cordova. “[W]e agree that we need to invest more money in teacher compensation. That’s why we proposed adding an additional $17 million to educator pay on top of the $45 million that DPS committed in the 2017 agreement toward increasing teacher compensation.” Cordova said in an email to parents on January 10th. “It’s so important to me […] that we’re working on these negotiations to get to a good solution for everyone; that’s my commitment.” Cordova said in a video attached to the aforementioned Email.

“We know the possibility of a teacher strike is unsettling for families and we are committed to keeping you up-to-date on this issue. If we cannot reach agreement on Jan. 18, DPS will immediately ask the state to intervene and help us get to agreement.” Cordova writes, “It is against Colorado law to strike while the state is working to resolve issues.” She concludes.

According to a representative from the DCTA, DPS claims their new plan will allow teachers to attain a salary of $100,000. The problem with this, according to the DCTA, is that to actually be eligible for such a raise, a teacher would need to earn a Ph.D with their own time and money, while still teaching full time and would have to work with DPS for at least 30 years. The DCTA also says that the 10% raise DPS proposes is more like a 0.4% raise, due to cuts since 2015 and skipped Cost-Of-Living Adjustments.

As the deadline for a deal draws nearer, it seems less and less certain what might happen in the near future. The Surveyor plans to report on the aftermath of the final negotiations and, if an agreement is not reached, the teacher strike.

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