Negotiations resuming amid Denver teacher strike


Striking teachers on Monday picketed outside of schools and marched through Denver's streets as auto horns blared in support of the latest USA walkout amid a swell of educator activism that has affected at least a half-dozen state over the previous year.

It was just after 7 a.m. and the picket line was a frenzy as students arrived for school, the first day in 25 years in which Denver Public Schools' teachers were on strike.

"Qualified DPS staff, including certified guest teachers and administrators with educator licenses, will be in schools providing instruction during the strike", the school district said.

Numerous students who left for the day joined their picketing teachers, according to Pence.

The strike is the latest action in a wave of teacher activism since last spring, when teachers went on strike in West Virginia.

Kimberly Beckeman, a ceramics and sculpture teacher at South High School, said she cried when the union announced teachers would go ahead and strike after 15 months of negotiations failed to produce a deal. Similar strikes and protests have occurred in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona.

"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.

The Los Angeles teachers ended up getting the same 6 percent raise offered early on by the nation's second-largest school district. School district officials initially 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.

In Denver, the main sticking points in the talks over a contract governing an incentive pay system are lowering bonuses to put more money in teachers' base pay and how to allow teachers to advance in pay based on education and training, the norm in most school districts.

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The district sees the disputed bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.

Some teachers became ineligible for bonuses after their schools lost their official low-income status because parts of the city are undergoing gentrification.

The two parties have been in talks to change the district's pay system for the past year.

At a news conference, district Superintendent Susana Cordova said negotiations will resume on Tuesday, an announcement confirmed by the union.

"ProComp intentionally was created to say pay teachers in a different way than every other systems", Superintendent Susan Cordova said. "I want to get this done now". "We're asking for an extra $200 to $300 per paycheck so that I can save up so that I can buy a house and live in my community and not jump from house to house".

"There is no quick fix to the school finance issues that the state is facing". District negotiators said the plan moved DPS closer to the union financially - but the union decried it as "deceptive".

The strike is expected to cost $400,000 a day and could eat up 1 to 2 percent of DPS's annual operating budget in a week.

The strike was on again after the administration of Polis, a Democrat, decided last week not get involved, believing the positions of both sides were not that far apart. But the walkout was put on hold because the school district asked the state to intervene.

The state does not have the power to impose any deal on either side.