By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) – Negotiators for striking Denver teachers and the city school district returned to the bargaining table on Wednesday after a productive session the previous day, as the walkout affecting 92,000 trainees went into a third day.
The 2 sides sounded an positive note on Tuesday after resuming talks that had broken off on Saturday, and went late into the night seeking to resolve distinctions over a variable pay system, known as ProComp, which has actually been at the center of the conflict.
“We exchanged proposals that are moving us closer and are enthusiastic that we will get to an arrangement quickly,” union President Henry Roman and schools Superintendent Susana Cordova said in a joint declaration late on Tuesday.
“However, we need a little more time to resolve the exceptional concerns,” they said.
The strike by the 5,650-member Denver Class Educators Association is the very first in Colorado’s biggest city considering that 1994. It follows a wave of instructor walkouts in Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia last year, and a six-day strike in Los Angeles that was settled last month. [nL1N1ZO02X] [nL1N2060D0]
The Denver Public Schools district said all of its 207 schools would hold classes on Wednesday, other than pre-kindergarten, staffed by substitute instructors and administrators, as they have since the strike started.
On the picket lines, some instructors said the development reported after the other day’s session provided them reason for optimism.
Cal Hossman, 56, a special education teacher at North High School, said he understands Roman and chief union arbitrator Robert Gould personally, and does not believe they would have actually signed on to the joint statement if they did not think progress was being made.
“I think the strike has put pressure on the district to come closer to our position,” stated Hossman, who has actually been teaching in the district for 16 years and said he delivers pizza on weekends to augment his salary.
Claiming that lots of instructors are leaving Denver since their pay increases have failed to keep speed with the city’s expense of living, the union has actually been pressing for a wage structure focused less on perks under ProComp, or Expert Compensation, and more on basic wage boosts.
The union embraced the ProComp variable pay system as a method for instructors to build their wages through a mix of possible incentives when it was instituted in 2005. But it now blames ProComp for eroding teacher pay in a city where the expense of living has skyrocketed in the previous 10 years.
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Writing by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by James Dalgleish)