Denver school leaders, teachers negotiate trying to avoid strike

Denver school leaders, teachers negotiate trying to avoid strike

After talks break off, Denver teachers set to strike Monday

Denver school officials said more than 2,100 teachers called in absent on Monday, as educators went on strike. Now they're ready for Denver's first strike in 25 years. Schools remained open Monday while teachers took to the picket lines, absences that are expected to affect the 70,000 students who attend traditional public schools. Other students joined hundreds of teachers and union members in a march past City Hall that held up traffic in downtown Denver. As Denver teachers take to the picket lines, Oakland, California, teachers have voted by 95 percent to strike as early as next week; West Virginia teachers and school workers have voted "overwhelmingly" to strike or engage in any work action necessary to oppose a pro-privatization education bill; Wright State, Ohio, faculty and Chicago charter school teachers are on strike. The largest struggles were by teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Arizona, initiated by the rank-and-file, not the unions. As required by state law, teachers gave notice last month that they planned to strike.

"They need us. They need our labour, they need our minds, they need our talents to really make it happen", lead union negotiator Rob Gould said.

"You are unique here in Denver because you are just saying, 'Can I just know what I'm being paid?'" Lily Eskelsen Garcia declared at a rally outside the state Capitol.

Both sides reportedly agree that the district's 5,300 teachers deserve a raise in their base pay. Every school in the district will remain open Monday, but pre-school classes will be canceled.

Teachers want lower bonuses to free up money for better overall salaries. However, the district sees those particular bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students. Teachers say the reliance on bonuses 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.

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. Twenty years ago, the district first piloted the "Professional Compensation System for Teachers", known by most as ProComp. "We presented an updated proposal that responds to what we have heard from teachers. and significantly increases the base pay for teachers".

Meanwhile, schools Superintendent Susana Cordova said she was "extremely disappointed" that the union walked away from the table instead of continuing to work toward an agreement.

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.

"He needs to be in school to get his education, but I need to make sure he's getting a quality education", Knupp said. It is very sad because we build relationships with our teachers.

The state says a walkout will cost about $400,000 a day and would eat up 1 or 2 percent of the district's annual operating budget in about a week.

However, Polis said the state could decide to intervene and suspend the strike for up to 180 days if the walkout drags on.

The state does not have the power to impose any deal on either side, but it can try to help the union and school district reach a deal and can require them to participate in a fact-finding process.

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