DPS teachers union says district offer is step in the right direction, strike still possible

DENVER -- Time is running out for Colorado’s largest school district to make a deal with the Denver Class Teachers Association to a avoid a potential strike.

Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova laid out the overarching details of the district’s latest proposal in  a video Friday night.

“We shared a proposal that I believe honors those requests that we heard both at the table and from our teachers,” Cordova said in the video.

The highlights in the DPS proposal include: increasing the average teacher’s base pay by 10 percent, adding one lane to the salary schedule and creating a path for teachers to earn a $100,000 salary.

“It’s still not enough. Over the years, we really haven’t had any increases,” said Rebecca Hendricks with DCTA’s bargaining team. 

Hendricks has been teaching math at Emily Griffith High School for six years. She says the current proposal includes too many bonuses, and believes that money could be used for even more base pay to simplify the equation for paying teachers. She points out that teachers may qualify for bonuses one year, but may lose the bonus based on how the school is performing the next.

“Every proposal we get from them is still very complicated,” Hendricks said. “Teachers still have a very hard time understanding what will they factually be paid under the proposal. We’ve been negotiating this for a long time now and DCTA has decided that we’re not extending this contract any further.”

Hendricks says DCTA wants to see the district put more money on the table for teachers and provide additional incentives for them to pursue more credits and degrees, allowing them to earn a higher salary by doing so. She’s earned her masters and has been teaching for more than ten years, but still needs to live with a roommate to afford living in the Denver metro area with her salary. 

“The thought of, 'How would I possibly afford having kids?' That’s not even in my mind because my salary can’t support that,” Hendricks said.

There will be three more full days of negotiations between the district and the union on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of the upcoming week. If both parties can’t reach an agreement, the union will vote on whether to strike on Saturday, Jan. 19. If there is a strike, DPS will have to make a decision on keeping schools open. 

“My commitment is to do everything that I can to help us reach that negotiated agreement that everybody can feel good about,” Cordova said.

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