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World & Nation

Denver teachers’ strike ends with instructors getting big raises

Denver teacher, denver teacher
An teacher holds a placard during a march to Denver Public Schools headquarters to deliver Valentine’s Day cards Wednesday.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Denver Public Schools and its striking teachers reached a deal Thursday to end their three-day walkout, with raises of 7% to 11%, built-in cost-of-living increases and more opportunities for future salary hikes.

A key sticking point — variable bonuses for working in tougher environments — will be studied to see if they help retain teachers in schools, the teachers union said.

The deal was reached after marathon negotiations and announced shortly before schools opened Thursday morning. Teachers were encouraged to return to their classrooms if they feel ready to, even though the deal awaits ratification by the full union membership.

More than half the district’s teachers went on strike Monday after negotiations over pay broke down.

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A key sticking point was the teachers’ demand that the system rely less on bonuses for educators in high-poverty and high-priority schools.

The district gives bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 a year to teachers who work in schools with students from low-income families, in schools that are designated high priority or in positions that are considered hard to staff, such as special education or speech language pathology. It sees the bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.

The union says the bonus question, which its lead negotiator, Rob Gould, called “the elephant in the room,” will now be studied.

Other teachers on the bargaining team said bonuses alone will not keep their colleagues at high-poverty and other priority schools, pointing to district data that showed a variety of teacher retention rates at those locations.

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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.

Supt. Susana Cordova said she wants to have similar conversations about Denver’s schools with teachers “all the time.”

“Truthfully, there is so much that we agree on,” she said.

The district said some of the extra money being put into teacher pay will come from cutting about 150 jobs in the district’s central office and eliminating performance bonuses for staffers in the office.

The walkout came about a year after West Virginia teachers launched the national “Red4Ed” movement with a nine-day strike in which they won 5% pay raises. Most recently, Los Angeles teachers held a six-day strike last month.

In Denver, there are 71,000 students in district-run schools. Another 21,000 are enrolled in charter schools unaffected by the strike.


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