Over 3,000 Denver Teachers Strike Over Fair Pay
DENVER, COLORADO – February 12, 2019
Over 3,000 teachers have called off work on Day 1 of the Denver teachers’ strike. A massive crowd gathered to claim their rights in front of the Colorado State Capitol at 200 E Colfax Ave. on a cold Monday morning.
According to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) estimates based on sign-in sheets and headcounts, 3,769 teachers and special service providers participated in the picket line.
The @DenverTeachers (DCTA) released their own number this afternoon stating 3,769 teachers and special service providers participated on picket lines. Their estimate based on sign-in sheets and headcounts. #DPSstrike #DenverTeachersStrike pic.twitter.com/3vHQjdMniI— Shawn Chitnis (@shawnchitnis) February 11, 2019
After 15 months at the bargaining table with Denver Public Schools (DPS), Denver teachers went on strike in an all-out effort for a fair, transparent, and professional salary plan that pays all teachers a living wage at the base level. Over the last weekend, the union rejected DPS's offer of more funding for base salaries, as the plan kept incentives in place and "lacked transparency," according to DCTA.
Hundreds of students at South High School and Montbello High School joined their teachers on the picket line as the district called in hundreds of substitutes and administrative staff to manage the teacher-less schools.
Demonstrators carried signs reading “For Our Students and For Our Profession”, “On strike for our students” and “I'd rather be teaching but I can't afford it.” Many chanted, “What do we want, fair pay! When do we want it? Now!”, “You left us no choice, we have to use our teacher voice!”
The walkout is the district's first in about 25 years, with teachers decrying their chronically low pay resulting from an incentive-driven compensation system, and the suffering it inflicts on Denver's 71,000 students.
While teachers in some states are barred from striking, teachers in Colorado have a qualified right to walk off the job. As required by state law, teachers gave notice last month that they planned to strike. But the walkout was put on hold because the school district asked the state to intervene.
The strike was on again after the administration of new Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, decided last Wednesday not to get involved, believing the positions of both sides were not that far apart, USA Really reported.
The main issue teachers are striking over is a compensation system which they say favors giving out incentives over base pay, making it hard for the district to attract and retain qualified educators. More than 30 percent of Denver teachers have been in the district for three years or less, according to DCTA.
"We are incredibly disappointed that on the last day of bargaining and less than two days before a strike, they doubled down on one-time incentives teachers do not want, and the data shows do not work to keep teachers in their schools," said Roman. "The bizarre proposal proves what we have said during this entire process, that DPS is not interested in listening to the concerns and needs of its teachers and special service providers."
On social media, politicians, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), pledged their support for DCTA.
“In the richest country in the world, our teachers should be the best-paid, not among the worst-paid. I stand with Denver teachers. We must invest in public education because our students and teachers deserve better,” Sanders posted.
In the richest country in the world, our teachers should be the best-paid, not among the worst-paid. I stand with Denver teachers. We must invest in public education because our students and teachers deserve better. #DenverTeacherStrike— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 11, 2019
Just a month ago, the country's second-largest school district saw a teacher strike. About 35,000 teachers from the Los Angeles Unified School District walked out of their classrooms to demand better pay. During that strike, some parents kept their students out of school for solidarity and practical reasons. The strike cost the district $97 million and lasted seven days.
Members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools are scheduled to meet to negotiate again today.