Denver Teachers Go On Strike After Pay Discussions Fall Apart

Erika Holt
February 13, 2019

CNN shared stories on Monday of the struggles of some Denver teachers, including a physical education teacher who drives a Lyft on off-hours to cover his bills, a Spanish teacher who hasn't made enough in nine years of teaching to start a savings account, and two teachers who are considering leaving the field because they can't afford to live on their paltry salaries.

On social media, some local substitute teachers indicated that they would refuse to cross the picket line.

DPS spokesman Will Jones told The Denver Post that students with disabilities were "well supported" in their schools Monday. Wearing winter boots, hats, and mittens, the teachers hoisted signs into the air and chanted at the top of their lungs.

Teachers throughout the U.S. and internationally, however, have been compelled to take up a fight for improved wages and funding, which has pitted them both against the unions and the bipartisan assault on public education.

- Another $2 million investment in base pay for teachers and specialized staff members that would "come from additional, painful cuts to our central departments, which we estimate to be an elimination of about 150 positions in the central office". "Yesterday!" went one refrain. "We give you our lives".

The Denver Post reported the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) did not show up for negotiations with the school district Sunday night following failed contract talks on Saturday.

Waldstreicher said he supports his "incredible" teachers but admitted he is anxious that, without an agreement after a few days of striking, students like himself will get behind in their studies.

Labor negotiations have been going for 15 months. Teachers say the way the pay structure is now, they have no idea how much they will make year after year.

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Merely hiring substitute teachers won't satisfy the school district's obligations under federal law to comply with individualized education plans, the lawsuit says.

Jayden Tolson, a high school junior at Montbello, went into school early Monday morning. "There's no reason for me to be in school today", Tolson says.

The school district and the union agreed on a starting salary of $45,800.

The walkout is the district's first in about 25 years, with teachers decrying their chronically low pay resulting from an incentive-driven compensation system, and the suffering it inflicts on Denver's 71,000 students.

"We presented an updated proposal that responds to what we heard from our teachers, aligns to our values of equity and retention, honors the ProComp ballot language and significantly increases the base pay for all of our educators", Cordova said in a statement.

Though things were tame in northeast Denver, teachers at the Montbello picket line were encouraged by the size of their rally and the amount of community support they've received. In a clear attempt at intimidation, the DPS has warned that such absences will be marked as "unexcused" and therefore jeopardize student grades. "We want something that is right, and we want it for our kids".

Outside the district's schools on Monday, many students braved the cold to join their teachers in demanding fair pay. But in the DPS system that type of stability is increasingly rare.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which represents about 5,700 teachers and other school professionals, has been pushing the Colorado school system to invest more in base pay and to curtail the bonus structure. "I've seen people leave DPS. We need to incentivize teachers to stay".

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