Striking  Denver  teachers,  district  resume  settlements

Striking Denver teachers, district resume settlements

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, February 25, 2019

DENVER — Striking Denver instructors wearing red jam-packed a library conference room Tuesday for a public negotiating session with district leaders on the second day of a strike over pay. The conference, helped with by a federal mediator, was the first time the sides met considering that talks broke down over the weekend.

Red is the color instructors in states across the country have actually put on in the past year amid comparable strikes and demonstrations for much better pay and working conditions.

All schools remained open and staffed by administrators, substitutes, and instructors not getting involved in the strike. At the start of the talks, Superintendent Susana Cordova acknowledged that students were not getting the kind of direction they usually would and stated she was committed to reaching a deal to end the strike.

Lead union mediator Rob Gould interrupted to inform her ‘‘You can’t do the job without us.’’

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Preliminary reports from the school district show 58 percent of teachers did not report to work on Tuesday, somewhat more than on the very first day of the strike Monday.

The walkout came about a year after West Virginia instructors released the nationwide ‘‘Red4Ed’’ movement with a nine-day strike in which they won 5 percent pay raises. Most just recently, Los Angeles instructors held a six-day strike last month.

There are 71,000 trainees in district-run schools. Another 21,000 are registered in charter schools unaffected by the strike.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, informed a crowd of picketing teachers outside the state Capitol on Monday that theirs was the latest in a national motion to provide just compensation to educators.

‘‘You are special here in Denver because here you are saying, ‘Can I simply know what I’m being paid?’ ’’ she said. ‘‘Let me inform you: You are going to change this.’’

The disagreement is over the school district’s incentive-based pay system. The district gives rewards varying 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 concern, or in positions that are thought about tough to staff, such as special education or speech language pathology.

The union is pressing to lower or remove some of those benefits to free up more loan that would be included to total teacher pay. The district sees the challenged bonus offers as secret to improving the academic efficiency of poor and minority students.

Kimberly Beckeman, a ceramics and sculpture instructor at South High School, said she sobbed when the union revealed teachers would go ahead and strike after 15 months of negotiations. She said she did not want to leave her students, however it was time to act.

‘‘It’s what’s right. It’s not perfect. I wear’t want to be out here,’’ she said on a picket line outside the school Monday.

Teachers say the dependence on bonus offers leads to high turnover, which they state injures trainees, and that spending loan on smaller sized class sizes and adding support staff, like therapists, is the best method to aid disadvantaged students.

The district has actually proposed raising beginning instructor pay from $43,255 to $45,500 a year. That’s $300 a year less than the union’s proposal, which would include $50 million a year to teacher base pay, according to union authorities.