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Denver teachers on strike; teachers' union opposes incentive-based pay

Negotiations between the school district and the union broke down over the weekend

Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

Teachers for Denver Public Schools went on strike Monday, after negotiations between the district and union broke down over the weekend in an ongoing pay dispute that has lasted for 15 months.

What are the details?

According to school officials, representatives from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association walked out of the talks on Saturday, and won't return to the negotiation table until Tuesday despite a plea from Superintendent Susana Cordova to continue working to avoid a strike.

On Monday morning, educators formed picket lines outside schools across the city, KCNC-TV reported, and are planning to rally outside the state Capitol at 2 p.m.

Both sides reportedly agree that the district's 5,300 teachers deserve a raise in their base pay. The New York Times reported that performance-based bonuses are at the heart of the dispute, with teachers protesting fluctuations and disparities in incentive pay.

The Times said the average Denver teacher makes $63,400 per year, and CNN reported that many educators are struggling to afford Denver's cost of living.

According to the Denver Post, DPS's latest offer included slashing 150 positions from its central office in order to free up $20 million, dedicating $55 million more to teachers' base salaries over the next three years. This amount would raise base salaries by nearly 11 percent next year, and boost annual incentives for working in high-poverty schools from $2,500 to $3,000.


Union President Henry Roman explained in a statement why the DCTA turned down the offer, saying, "Teachers were stunned when DPS proposed hiking incentives instead of putting that new money into base pay where it could make the entire district more competitive."

The Post reported that all of the district's schools were open and staffed by substitutes Monday morning, while 2,100 teachers called in absent. DPS preschool classes were canceled amid the strike, however, due to a lack of "sufficiently licensed support staff."

Anything else?

For the past 20 years, Denver teachers have been paid under a program called the "Professional Compensation System for Teachers," or ProComp, for short.

According to NPR's Jenny Brundin, "It lets teachers get several bonuses to encourage them to take things like hard-to-staff positions for math, or work in a high-poverty school. But over the years, it became really complicated and unpredictable."

Brundin explained, "Some of the incentives would suddenly disappear or shrink. And teachers say that makes it really hard to plan or even pay rent. In interviews with about 40 teachers I did, not one could tell me exactly how much they made."

Both sides agree that the pay system needs to be simplified.

One last thing…
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