Denver  teachers  are  next  to  take  to  the  picket  line

Denver teachers are next to take to the picket line

By Anne Rowe for DPS board, March 8, 2019

In an period of fractured politics, teachers of various ethnic backgrounds, with varying levels of seniority, in school districts huge and little, in both Democratic and Republican states, appear unified on at least one front: They are not being paid as they should. Over the last two years, insufficient pay was at the core of statewide conflicts in Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Colorado, and Washington state. The prominent instructors’ strike of the Los Angeles Unified School District less than a month ago was a clarion call for other big city districts. Now we can add Denver to the growing list of locations where teachers are taking their pay needs to the picket line.

After Colorado Gov. Jared Polis declined to enter into negotiations between the union and district, the leaders of the Denver Class Educators Association union (DCTA) revealed its members would strike on Feb. 11. So on Monday, Denver instructors hit the streets.

While the district and DCTA argue over the amount of the raise, both concur that instructors need one. Instructor pay continues to lag behind the pay of other college-educated employees, according to a 2016 report released by the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. “In 2015, public school instructors’ weekly incomes were 17 percent lower than those of comparable employees—compared with simply 1.8 percent lower in 1994,” the report states. Expect to see more strikes, particularly in cities like Denver, where a tech boom has increased the cost of living for all employees.

What is producing an impasse is the taxpayer-funded Denver Public Schools’ Professional Settlement, a pay-for-performance system commonly understood as ProComp. It was developed in 2005, by DCTA management, in collaboration with the school district. The relocation to embrace a pay-for-performance system raised eyebrows: DCTA was one of the few local unions to welcome the system, to the shame of nationwide affiliates.

Instead of looking at length of service, period, and education—factors districts normally think about when setting instructor pay—the union wanted to discover a method to reward good instructors. Under the ProComp system, teachers are paid based on placement in hard-to-fill positions; educational development, including involvement in expert development activities; specialist evaluations and student scholastic growth, as defined by test ratings. However we have to be truthful about these inexact pay-for-performance models. They blame instructors for students’ underachievement as much as they reward mentor excellence.

Teachers state this payment structure, based on several variables, causes their income to fluctuate dramatically, making it nearly impossible to budget plan properly. In addition, they feel the system has throttled base salaries, which are not keeping pace with cost-of-living increases. First-year teachers in Denver Public Schools for the 2019 -20 school year make $43,255, according to The Denver Post’s reporting, based on Colorado Workplace of State Preparation and Budgeting numbers. Teachers in the neighboring Stone Valley city district earn $47,726, while teachers in the Adams County School District 12, in the northern suburban areas of Denver, start at $40,783. However, it’s the rising mean family earnings of individuals moving into the city that is putting pressure on the district to raise incomes.

Higher earnings lead to increased real estate expenses, which make housing unaffordable for current residents. But rather of addressing the increasing costs of living in Denver, ProComp provides a bad and unequal substitute. “What we got provided is a system of Wall Street-style bonus offers that mask the disintegration of our salaries,” Denver math instructor Jeff Dollar informed education news outlet Chalkbeat. “People have lastly figured that out. It’s why people are mad.”

Paying teachers based, in part, on trainees’ standardized test ratings is far from a perfect science. Accomplishment test score information was not developed for the functions of promoting or grading students, examining teachers or schools. In truth, basing these choices on test results corrupts what the tests are measuring—knowledge acquisition. When you link monetary, social and political incentives to accomplishment tests, you influence outcomes, in some cases negatively. Teachers might cheat on tests to get a higher salary or to prevent punishment. They may also teach to the test in ways that interfere with genuine learning.

Moreover, it’s very hard to quality student development to a specific teacher since much of trainee efficiency is connected to forces outdoors the school: hardship, wealth, gain access to to transport, direct exposure to criminal offense, adult educational levels, and more. As former Stanford University educational scientist Linda Darling-Hammond and her associates point out in their 2011 research short on teacher examination, “It is difficult to completely separate out the influences of students’ other teachers, as well as of school conditions, on their reported learning. No single instructor accounts for all of a student’s finding out. Previous instructors have enduring effects, for excellent or ill, on trainees’ later discovering, and current teachers likewise interact to produce students’ knowledge and skills.”

Incentivizing specialist development with money is also doubtful. In 2005, when the district and the union concurred to the ProComp system, we were in an period in which calls for teacher accountability were loud. Political compromises were made that didn’t make much sense. For instance, while expert development is required and should be part of the job; it should be an expectation, not a suggests to get greater pay—as it is now under the ProComp system.

I wear’t disagree with everything that ProComp does: I do believe it’s sensible to differentiate pay in subject locations where there are teacher shortages, such as science, unique education, and math. However, there is a factor why most districts have a ladder system based on longevity and levels of education. Budgeting is much more foreseeable, which is especially essential in a rapidly changing task market.

A quality teacher is the most important impact on trainees’ scholastic accomplishment. I can comprehend wanting to reward your leading teachers. But Denver Public Schools will lose all their instructors, excellent and bad, if instructors can’t pay soaring leas. A foreseeable base pay that is mindful to the expense of living should take top priority over fulfilling top teachers. The sad paradox is that a union that worths its members can be blamed for bringing ProComp to Denver.