Denver teachers strike over pay disputes

UTLA president Alex Caputo Pearl at the LA March for Public Education December 2018

UTLA president Alex Caputo Pearl at the LA March for Public Education December 2018

That's about 1-2 percent of the budget for the school year if the strike lasts a week, the Colorado Sun reports.

This is the first time in 25 years since Denver teachers have gone on strike and follows the Los Angeles teachers' strike that took place in January. It's unclear how numerous district's more than 5,000 teachers will actually walk out.

The dispute is over the school district's incentive-based pay system. More than 30 percent of Denver teachers have been in the district for three years or less, according to DCTA. Denver teachers say the reliance on bonuses in the district leads to high turnover, which they say hurts students, and that spending money on smaller class sizes and adding support staff, like counselors, is the best way to help disadvantaged students learn.

Cordova said students at schools she visited were working in classrooms, overseen by adults.

She said district officials reported that the school was calm by early afternoon. That walkout ended when teachers received a 6 percent raise and promises of smaller class sizes and the addition of more nurses and counselors. Other students joined hundreds of teachers and union members in a march past City Hall that held up traffic in downtown Denver.

Many drivers honked in support and used their cellphones to capture the moment.

The district also stressed that it would show up for additional negotiations on Sunday, February 10, even though the union previously noted that it would not take part in more talks until Tuesday, February 12 - and because the folks at DCTA were serious, the strike is on.

According to district data, that's about half of the teachers employed. Some students crossed picket lines to get to class as schools remained open with administrators and substitute teachers in classrooms. On the other hand, if students experience chaotic conditions inside their schools, pressure for the strike to end could grow. The recent wave of teacher activism has resulted in several major strikes and work stoppages across the the last 18 months - all of which have resolved within two weeks, and usually in not much more than one.

"The district spent the last few weeks saying it heard what teachers were saying, yet when given the opportunity tonight to avert a strike with a transparent, competitive proposal, DPS made the situation worse and the strike inevitable", the association said in a statement. In Denver, both the district and union have encouraged families to continue to send their children to school.

State House Majority Leader Alec Garnett, a Democrat, said the strike underscores the need for lawmakers to fix conflicting laws that restrict state public school spending by hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

It comes after teachers walked off the job in Arizona and West Virginia past year and Los Angeles teachers went on strike last month.

Garnett says he met with both sides over the weekend and that they were "super-close" to a deal.

There have since been walkouts in Washington state, Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma, as teachers protest low pay, crowded classrooms and staffing shortages. Officials said all schools would remain open, with substitute teachers stepping in.

The fundamental disagreement concerns how base pay is calculated.

A last flurry of negotiating sessions between DPS and the DCTA failed to produce the sort of breakthrough that might have prevented a walkout.

Last month, 93% of the union's almost 3,000 members voted to strike after negotiations with the school district failed.

Striking teachers picketed outside of schools and marched through Denver's streets Monday as vehicle horns blared in support of the latest US walkout amid a swell of educator activism in at least a half-dozen states over the past year.

Teachers are claiming the district's proposal lacks transparency and "pushes for failed incentives for some over meaningful base salary for all".

"I am extremely disappointed that the DCTA walked away from the table", Superintendent Susana Cordova said late Saturday.

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