DPS teachers will return to schools after move to strike hits barriers

DENVER -- Denver Public Schools teachers voted overwhelmingly to strike Tuesday evening, but that movement has run into numerous roadblocks in the following days.

"They're striking for better pay, they're striking for our profession, and they're striking for Denver students," lead negotiator Ron Gould announced on behalf of the teachers, 93 percent of whom voted for the strike.

Susana Cordova is the Superintendent for DPS, she says that, despite the strike, they are committed to reaching a common goal. "I remain very committed to working with our teacher association to reach an agreement. I think it's in the best interest of our students, it's certainly in the best interest of our teachers."

In a surprise to both teachers and, apparently, Cordova, a human resources employee with DPS issued a threat to teachers with working visas. The message said that if those teachers chose to take to the picket lines, the district would report them to immigration.

Cordova quickly apologized to teachers and walked back the message that would affect 130 DPS employees working on visas.

"This was wrong. I cannot begin to express how shocked I was to learn of this message and how deeply sorry I am for the anxiety and fear this has caused our educators, our family and our community," she announced to the media.

The earliest the strike could begin is Monday but that's on hold after DPS requested the state step in to help.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment will ask the teachers' union to respond to the district's request. Until they do and the department decides whether to get involved, the union cannot strike.

If the labor department does get involved and try to broker an agreement, it would put a strike on hold for up to 180 days.

Regardless of how this week plays out, Cordova said the district is braced to handle the effects of a strike.

"All teachers have lesson plans that are available when they are out of the building. We also are working on lesson plans that align to every grade level and content area so substitutes won't be asked to create their own lessons," she said.

While the stalemate could eventually come to mediation or closed-door negotiations, teachers will remain in the classroom Monday but the followup timeline is unclear.

Denver teachers are not alone in their current fight for better funding;  Los Angeles teachers who declared a victory after a six-day strike have added momentum to a successful wave of activism by educators framing their cause as a push to improve public education, not just get pay raises.

Teachers in Oakland, Virginia, Texas, Washington and Illinois are planning rallies, marches and, in some cases, strikes of their own — actions that have fed off one another since the movement began last spring in West Virginia.

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