Denver’s  public  school  instructors  say  benefit  pay  destroyed  their  salaries.  Now,  they’re  battling  back.

Denver’s public school instructors say benefit pay destroyed their salaries. Now, they’re battling back.

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, February 24, 2019

DENVER — Denver’s first instructor strike in 25 years extended into a 3rd day Wednesday, after a marathon bargaining session Tuesday that ended around 11 p.m. with some indications of development around the central problem of teacher pay structure.

This strike is just the most current in the long and growing list of public school teacher walkouts in the U.S., however it’s the first one focused on merit pay. The Colorado capital was one of the first cities in the nation to present, in 2005, a system of perks and incentives connected to student-test performance and other metrics. However teachers here state the system, understood as ProComp, soon became an excuse for the district to pay them less to start with, causing their wages to stagnate when compared with Denver’s fast-rising cost of living. Subscription in the union has took off in the past couple of years.

“It’s been a battle to lastly feel like I have my feet under me — and barely,” stated Rebecka Hendricks, a 33- year-old high school instructor and member of the union’s bargaining team. “I still have to have a roommate. I’ve had a number of extra jobs: I utilized to drive Lyft, I used to provide food for Postmates, I used to sell things on eBay. I did whatever I could to get extra cash to just be able to make it that month.”

Denver instructors complain that the bonus offers they get under ProComp are often arbitrary and unreliable, making their take-home wages vary wildly from year to year. That’s why they’re asking for a basic income structure with routine and foreseeable raises.

The school district has acceded to lots of of the union’s needs, concurring to streamline the system and to put an extra $20 million into instructor pay. However it has also insisted on putting even more loan into particular incentives, consisting of a bonus for instructors who work at high-poverty-area schools.

In the years after Denver implemented ProComp, comparable systems spread to several major cities, and the Obama administration made it a requirement for federal grants under its Race to the Top program. The strike in Denver is a indication that teachers around the nation are revolting against the core tenets of the school reform movement.

“It’s kind of a corporate idea, right? You pay individuals rewards to incentivize specific habits,” said Jeff Buck, a high school teacher and union member who helped design and implement ProComp but now repudiates the program. “But we’re not in a for-profit scenario. This is a human services company. And people are absolutely driven, and some are determined by cash, however I believe, for the most part, people understand that we’re not here to get rich.”

This section originally aired February 12, 2019, on VICE N ews Tonight on HBO.