DPS, teachers union to resume negotiations to try to avoid strike

DENVER -- Denver Public Schools and its teachers union will return to the negotiating table on Tuesday in an effort to try to avoid a strike.

It will be the first of three meetings this week where the sides hope to strike a deal as the countdown clicks closer to a potential strike.

On Friday, DPS presented its latest deal and the union reviewed it over the weekend. Union negotiators will return Tuesday with feedback on the proposal.

Superintendent Susana Cordova says a critic of DPS says it's too large and top-heavy.

So the district is proposing to make cuts to support staff that then puts $23 million toward teacher pay, which would be about a 10 percent raise.

The union wants $25 million toward pay to help make sure teachers can afford to live where they teach and don't need to work second jobs.

"We are negotiating in good faith," Cordova said. "We think it’s premature to plan for a strike. We think it’s premature to be in on strike plans because that’s time we aren’t spending focused on reaching an agreement."

A survey by a Boulder research group says voters are in support of teachers.

Harstad Strategic Research found 80 percent of the 600 people surveyed say DPS teachers don't make enough and 60 percent said they would support a potential strike.

"It makes it difficult to live in the community where they work," teacher Tanessa Bass said. "Denver's cost of living is increasing and our pay doesn't compensate for that.

"Teachers aren't able to live where they work. We don't know what our salaries will be in five years so it's hard to qualify for loans and with the pro-comp system, we have teachers losing money every year."

The sides will meet until 5 p.m., then again on Thursday and Friday. If they don't reach an agreement, the union will vote Saturday whether to strike or not.

If teachers strike, the district said it will do everything in its power to keep things open, pulling in all available substitute teachers and certified office staff.

The strike wouldn't happen immediately. There are more procedural steps so the earliest teachers could walk out would be Jan. 28.

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