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Denver Teachers to Begin Strike Monday if Negotiations with DPS Fail
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Denver Teachers to Begin Strike Monday if Negotiations with DPS Fail

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DENVER, COLORADO – February 7, 2019

According to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association’s press release published on Wednesday, Denver teachers and special service providers will begin a strike on Monday, Feb. 11.

The rights of teachers to strike was affirmed on Feb. 6 by Gov. Polis and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment in the state’s decision not to intervene in the labor dispute between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools (DPS).

Polis said he also supported the decision by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment not to intervene in the labor dispute.

“No teacher wants to strike, we would rather be teaching students in our classrooms. But when the strike starts, we will be walking for our students,” said Denver teacher and DCTA President Henry Roman. “The district’s revolving door of teacher turnover must stop. DPS must improve teacher pay to keep quality, experienced teachers in Denver classrooms.”

“DCTA remains committed to bargaining and reaching a deal with the district for a fair, predictable, competitive compensation system,” Roman continued. “It is incredibly disappointing that DPS has not yet taken our discussions at the bargaining table seriously. Now we will exercise our right to strike for the schools our students deserve, but we will listen when the district is ready to bring us a real proposal to consider.”

In the DPS’s appeal for state intervention, the district attempted to argue that a teacher strike would negatively affect the public interest. However, Wednesday’s decision acknowledges the overwhelming outpouring of support and affection the Denver community has for its teachers, seen at DCTA rallies and backed by reliable polling, the DCTA statement reads.

A representative sample of more than 600 Denver voters in January revealed 82% of all voters sided with teachers over the school district in the ongoing labor dispute, with even higher support (89%) among parents of DPS students. Further, 62% of all voters favored a teacher strike, again with higher support (69%) among DPS parents, DCTA reported.

“Gov. Polis recognizes the will of 93% of DCTA members who voted to strike. We are striking for our students so they may receive the very best education,” said Roman. “The governor understands our position that only DPS can mend its relationship with its teachers and special service providers, and that state intervention could not make a difference in a dispute that has dragged on for five years.”

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova said the district wants to reach an agreement before Monday but is preparing for a possible strike.

If there's a strike, the district would not be able to offer early childhood classes because of the licensing requirements, training and background checks required for those educators. Thousands of students would be affected.

Parents should check with their children’s schools to determine if they will remain open during the strike. “We encourage parents to make a decision on whether or not to send their children to school based on what they believe to be in the best interest and well-being of their children,” Roman added.

However, Colorado's governor said both sides are close to a deal and he hopes to avert the strike.

"Based on my meetings with both parties, the evidence that I've seen, the parties are very close to reaching an agreement," Gov. Jared Polis told reporters.

The two sides have reached agreements on several points, such as additional money for hard-to-fill positions, but several areas of disagreements remain, including teacher salaries, according to the governor. Negotiations are expected to continue, both sides said.

"We want to make sure the district gets serious about fixing this problem, even if it means we have to strike," Roman said Wednesday at a rally referring to the turnover. "We do this for the future of our profession, for the future of public education in Denver and for the future of our students."

The union said its proposal could be funded if some of the $4 million designated annually for administrator bonuses was invested in teacher salaries.

Denver Public Schools said it is "committed to doing everything in our power to prevent a strike."

"In negotiations, DPS added $26.5 million to teacher pay, including an average 10% salary increase for teachers next year, as we worked to find common ground," the school district said.

DPS said the union also made some concessions, reducing its demands by $2.6 million.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association has nearly 3,000 members representing more than 5,600 educators throughout DPS. The organization had been negotiating with the Denver Public Schools for 15 months to overhaul the district's compensation system, which the union said is tied to the city's teacher turnover rate.

DCTA’s recognized education leaders, including classroom teachers and specialized service providers, are proud to be affiliated with a number of organizations, including the 40,000-member Colorado Education Association (CEA) and the 3.2 million-member National Education Association (NEA).

Frustrated by their paltry salary, sheer lack of growth opportunities and a multitude of other problems, public school teachers and other education employees in the United States are quitting their jobs at the fastest rate on record, as USA Really has pointed out earlier.

While the issues vary from state to state — and sometimes district to district — the wave of teacher protests, walkouts and strikes has dominated education news ever since West Virginia's teachers went on strike in late February 2018. Across the country striking teachers are pushing district leaders and state policymakers to address salary issues, declines in education spending and conditions in classrooms.

Many strikes have focused on traditional issues of pay, benefits and time spent on the job. But others have also touched on the impact of charter schools and included demands that teachers say are important to improving the quality of education, such as community schools, counselors and other support personnel, Educationdive wrote.

In Chicago, about 150 teachers at four schools within the Chicago International Charter Schools network have been on strike since Feb. 5, calling for higher wages for teachers and arguing against higher caseloads for counselors and school social workers to pay for those salary increases. The strike is affecting about 2,200 students.

Represented by United Teachers Los Angeles, about 80 teachers who work for the Los Angeles charter network went on strike in January after failing to reach an agreement with founder and CEO Johnathan Williams over pay and health benefits. The strike was the first for a charter network in California and the second in the nation. Same month, more than 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles began striking after failing to reach an agreement on a contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District. The union called for higher salaries, lower class sizes and more educator positions, such as nurses and school librarians.

Last December, the nation’s first charter school strike took place in Chicago among teachers with the 15-school Acero network, with demands for higher pay, lower class sizes, more special education staff members and sanctuary protections for immigrant students. The schools serve a large Hispanic student population. In Illinois, more than 400 members of the Geneva Education Association went on strike after negotiations over salaries broke down without an agreement, affecting about 6,000 students.

In August – September 2018, teachers in at least 14 school districts across the state of Washington went on strike around the beginning of the school year over salary issues related to the state supreme court’s decision in Matthew and Stephanie McCleary et al., v. State of Washington, a school finance case in which the court ruled the state was underfunding education. Thousands of teachers and roughly 120,000 students were affected by the strikes, which ultimately ended with teachers negotiating salary increases averaging about 18%. Beginning with the Longview Public Schools and ending in the Tumwater School District, teachers also went on strike in the Tacoma, Puyallup, Tukwila, Stanwood-Camano, Rainier, Centralia, Ridgefield, Hockinson, Evergreen, Vancouver, Battle Ground and Washougal districts. In the Banning Unified School District, west of Palm Springs, California, teachers began striking on the first day of the school year against an extra 52 minutes of uncompensated instructional time added for teachers at Nicolet Middle School that was not part of the negotiated contract. In the last 40 years or so, there have been more than 75 teacher strikes in Washington.

On May 16, 2018 roughly 20,000 teachers from across the state of North Carolina staged a one-day walkout at the state capitol in Raleigh, forcing districts to close schools. In the same month, teachers in Pueblo District 60 in Colorado went on strike after the school board denied the Pueblo Education Association’s request for a cost-of-living pay increase as part of contract negotiations.

Frustration over salaries not keeping pace with inflation and a shortfall in funding for the state’s pension plan came to a head in mid-April 2018 in Colorado, when so many teachers in the Englewood Schools used personal leave to hold a protest that the district had to close for the day. Their demonstration sparked similar, larger walkouts at the state capitol in Denver later that month, with the largest involving roughly 10,000 teachers on April 27.

In Arizona, The #RedforEd movement took off on April 26 - May 3, 2018 when teachers in the right-to-work state protested low pay and cuts to education.

After years of education budget cuts, members of the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) went on strike on April 2, 2018, with a list of demands that included a $10,000 raise and $200 million in increased funding for schools over three years. On the same day that Oklahoma teachers went on strike, Kentucky teachers crowded into the state capitol building in Frankfort to protest the end of a pension plan for teachers.

West Virginia teachers and other school personnel — some 34,000 employees — went on strike last February, shutting down schools in all 55 of the state's counties.

Author: USA Really