Teacher Strike On in Denver

US, February 09, 2019: EDUCATORS IN DENVER ARE preparing to strike on Monday after newly elected Democratic Gov. Jared Polis declined to intervene in a pay dispute between teacher union officials and school district officials, setting up the first strike in Colorado‘s biggest school district in 25 years according to reports published in usnews.com

“It is incredibly disappointing that [Denver Public Schools] has not yet taken our discussions at the bargaining table seriously,” Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said in a statement. “Now we will exercise our right to strike for the schools our students deserve.”

Before teachers take to the picket line, the two sides have a last-ditch negotiation effort scheduled for Friday, where they will try to close what Polis characterized as “small, limited differences.”

Roman, who stressed that teachers could have legally started the strike Thursday, remain committed to bargaining and reaching a deal with the district.

“We will listen when the district is ready to bring us a real proposal to consider,” he said.

At issue is the payment structure for bonuses, which allow Denver educators to earn more for things like strong evaluations, students’ high test scores and teaching in a high-performing or high-poverty school. School district officials proposed an additional $20.5 million for the bonus program and indicated that they want higher bonuses for teachers who work in high-poverty schools where teacher turnover has been a problem. But the union negotiators asked for $28 million, the bulk of which they want to go to increasing base salaries.

“The district’s revolving door of teacher turnover must stop,” Roman said. “DPS must improve teacher pay to keep quality, experienced teachers in Denver classrooms.”

Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova agreed with Polis’ characterization that the two sides aren’t far apart:

“We are close to reaching common ground; with continued hard work, honest dialogue and an authentic exchange of proposals, I believe we can reach an agreement and avoid a strike,” she said in a statement. “Our commitment is to spend as much time as it takes to do that.”

Should the Mile High City’s 5,600 educators strike next week, it will mark the third major moment of teacher unrest this year, after the historic six-day strike in Los Angeles that sent tens of thousands of teachers to the picket lines and an organized walkout among educators across Virginia.

The instances highlight the emboldened public education agenda among one of the nation’s most politically powerful forces – the nearly 5 million members of the two major national teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers.

Last year, educators in places like ArizonaKentuckyOklahoma and West Virginia organized around the same issues of pay, class size and resources and ultimately motivated thousands of educators to run for office in the 2018 midterm election.

The movement shows no signs of cresting, either. Earlier this week, teachers in Oakland, California, voted overwhelmingly to strike after unsuccessful negotiations over pay hikes, class sizes and additional support staff, setting up a strike for any time after Feb. 15.

 

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