Denver  Public  Schools,  instructors  reach  tentative  agreement  to  end  strike

Denver Public Schools, instructors reach tentative agreement to end strike

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, March 3, 2019

Denver’s first teachers strike in 25 years will come to an end after a record-setting, all-night bargaining session produced a brand-new compensation offer shortly prior to dawn Thursday that labor leaders say will assistance much better maintain the district’s teachers.

The Denver Class Teachers Association started the strike Monday, decrying Denver Public Schools’ incentive-based pay system and seeking better salaries and more reputable financial advancement for the city’s career teachers.

The walkout by more than 2,600 teachers over the last three days left Denver’s schools short-staffed and preschools classes canceled, with replaces and district administrators filling in, and problems from students in regional high schools that they were being shown motion pictures, given crosswords and otherwise not doing much learning.

The new offer sees DPS putting forward an additional $23.1 million towards instructor settlement, provides average raises of 11.7 percent next year and develops a new wage schedule that starts at $45,800 a year and tops out at $100,000 every year.

Godsman  Elementary  School  instructors  Rachel  Sandoval,  ...

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Godsman Elementary School teachers Rachel Sandoval, left, and Heather Jackson-Smith, right, react favorably to the newest DPS agreement proposition in the basement of the Denver Central Library throughout the Denver Classroom Teachers Association settlements on day three of the strike Wednesday evening, Feb. 13, 2019.

Both the union and the district hailed the bargain struck early Thursday.

“This is a victory for Denver kids and their moms and dads and our teachers,” said Rob Gould, the union’s lead negotiator. “Educators in Denver Public Schools now have a fair, foreseeable, transparent wage schedule. We’re delighted to get back to work.”

DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said she was pleased by the “collaborative method we worked together.”

“There was a acknowledgment that we share lots of areas of agreement, and we worked hard to listen and discover typical ground on the few locations where we had different point of views,” she said.

Union mediators put forth what turned out to be their final proposition at 5:30 a.m. Thursday — DPS’s longest-ever bargaining session had been underway because 10:30 a.m. Wednesday — and district leaders broke for about 25 minutes to review it.

“We truly just have one modification recommended,” Cordova stated upon her return. “We’d like to add a signature line to the proposition.”

Cordova and Henry Roman, the union’s president, sat next to each other as they signed off on the arrangement and hugged, drawing applause from the instructors and administrators gathered in the basement of the Denver Central Library just after 6 a.m.

“We are suggesting now to our members that we officially end the strike,” Gould said.

Because the settlements had stretched all night, the union had not called off the strike, now technically in its fourth day. But Cordova said instructors are welcome back in the class Thursday.

“If you want to come in, as soon as you can, come in,” she said. “We’d love to have you back in the schools.”

Cordova clarified that instructors who do not report to their classrooms on Thursday will have to take an unsettled day off — as they already have actually been this week during the strike.

DPS’s preschool programs, however, will stay closed another day.

The agreement still must be ratified by a vote of the Denver Class Teachers Association’s complete membership, then approved by the Denver Board of Education.

Highlights of the offer, according to union and district authorities, include:

  • An average 11.7 percent boost in base income next year
  • A “transparent” 20- step salary schedule that begins at $45,800 a year and tops out at $100,000 for teachers with 20 years experience and a doctorate
  • Full cost-of-living increases in the 2nd and 3rd years of the agreement
  • The capability to use specialist development systems —  free in-district courses offered to advance teachers’ education — to relocation up lanes on the income schedule
  • An end to benefits for senior DPS administrators
  • An extra $23.1 million in funding for instructor compensation

The deal also consisted of a considerable compromise on the contentious concern of educator rewards, with the union accepting the district’s increased $3,000 retention reward for teachers in the 30 highest-priority schools — if a collaborative research study study is performed to figure out whether the much-debated rewards work to keep Denver’s quality teachers.

“We are grateful that both sides were able to come together after 15 months of bargaining to guarantee our educators have a transparent salary schedule with a expert base wage scale and less dependence on unpredictable rewards that interrupt our schools,” Roman stated in a statement.”

The yearly rewards agreed upon include:

  • A $750 bonus for instructors in 10 distinguished schools
  • $2,000 incentives for hard-to-staff positions and teachers working at Title I schools
  • The $3,000 reward for teachers in the 30 highest-priority schools
  • A $1,000 of tuition compensation, maxing out at $6,000 over a career

Cordova called the proposition a strong investment in both instructor base pay and rewards.

Sleeping on the flooring

While lots of teachers called it a night after the session hit the midnight mark, the room had been packed the previous day as teachers waited for their fate.

During a particularly long lull waiting for both parties to come back to the table in the downtown library basement, 72- year-old DPS math teacher Kathleen Braun curled up on the flooring under her seat for a fast power nap.

The more-than-19-hour bargaining session was the longest DPS settlement on record.

The exhaustion of nonstop bargaining sessions, picketing and fretting about students was absolutely nothing brand-new for Braun, who has now sustained 3 DPS strikes in her lifetime — in 1969, 1994 and this week.

Braun stated she didn’t strike for herself.

“I would make less than $200 at this point out of these deals,” Braun said, with the imprint of her jacket zipper still visible on her face from her snooze. “This is for the next generation of teachers and those thinking of becoming teachers. One day, they will replace me, and I won’t be sleeping on the flooring of bargaining sessions anymore.”

Gov. Jared Polis, who had decreased to step in ahead of the strike, praised the offer struck by DPS and the instructors union on Thursday.

“Denver’s kids are the greatest winners in today’s agreement,” he said in a statement, “and I think everybody is relieved that the strike is over and students and instructors will be back in school working together to construct a brighter future for themselves and our neighborhood.”

More than 2,600 Denver educators have strike the streets this week, along with fans and some of their trainees, in the name of fair incomes.

The issue at the core of the pay disagreement, and 15 months of failed settlements, is a settlement system called ProComp with a made complex history dating back to the 1990 s.

Denver’s instructors union has been looking to secure the district’s educators much better and more trustworthy pay increases — rather than the benefits at the heart of DPS’s incentive-based ProComp system — as those instructors advance through their careers.

The district wanted to guarantee any system was economically sustainable in the future.

Even previous to this week’s resumption of bargaining, the 2 sides had reached a point where they both proposed the exact same starting base salary for teachers: $45,800 a year. But other locations of contention remained, particularly the DPS reliance on benefits connected to working in high-poverty schools or trainee achievement.

Negotiations heat up

As the Jan. 18 expiration of the ProComp agreement grew closer, bargaining sessions between Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association heated up, with some ending in tears and squabbles, with representatives of both sides tired and annoyed.

The union voted on Jan. 22 to authorize a strike after its settlements with DPS failed to secure a new agreement governing teacher settlement through the ProComp system. At the time, the 2 sides were about $8 million apart in their respective payment proposals.

Once the union licensed a strike, DPS authorities officially asked Polis to step in, a move that delayed any strike up until the state government weighed its alternatives. The governor eventually declined to step in — something that could have even more delayed a strike by up to 180 days.

After Polis made his decision last week, union officials declared they’d strike on Monday, setting the stage for a last burst of bargaining. Representatives of DPS and the teachers satisfied on Friday night and much of Saturday afternoon.

Saturday’s 11 th-hour bargaining session grew significantly contentious as union representatives turned down a new DPS proposition that would cut 150 central office jobs in an effort to totally free up $20 million to aid with teacher pay. However it also increased rewards to teachers working in high-poverty schools, which has actually been a sticking point with the union.

The union agents strolled out on DPS arbitrators Saturday night, revealing they would not fulfill with the district against until Tuesday — and that the strike would start Monday.

The district and union returned to the bargaining table on Tuesday following a day of picketing and trainee walkouts in support of their teachers. The two sides fulfilled for more than 12 hours at the Denver Central Library, trading propositions and meeting in private to go over them.

Following Tuesday night’s session, Cordova expressed optimism, saying, “We can definitely see a pathway forward.”

Cordova and Henry Roman, the union’s president, followed up with a joint statement saying the 2 sides had “worked in good faith to find common ground.”

“We exchanged proposals that are moving us closer and are enthusiastic that we will get to an agreement soon,” they stated. “However, we requirement a little more time to resolve the impressive issues.”

Wednesday’s negotiation session hit the ground running with the district responding to the union’s late Tuesday proposal. As DPS unveiled its newest strategy, instructors in the audience — who normally chant protest tunes during breaks and sometimes heckle the district throughout bargaining talks — clapped and snapped their fingers in approval.

The union said it didn’t have concerns about the district’s proposal, which came closer to the union in methods teachers were able to relocation across their pay scale and earn expert advancement credits that could contribute toward their salary.