Teachers, DPS fail to compromise in effort to avoid strike

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DENVER -- Denver teachers stormed out of a negotiating session with DPS when the meeting was cut short due to an inability for the two groups to compromise and avoid a strike.

The meeting came as a followup to the teachers' vote to strike and following hurdles that prevented that strike.

DPS offered teachers a guaranteed cost of living adjustment for a few years and an extra $3 million for teacher pay, starting with the 2020-2021 school year.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association released a statement regarding Thursday evening's failed negotiations with Denver Public Schools.

In the statement, the DCTA said they were "disappointed" and DPS did not offer a "serious proposal."

The statement was released to the public by Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, after public bargaining with Denver Public Schools ended.

The following statement can be found below:

“Tonight was a lost opportunity for students, parents and the community. Denver teachers are very disappointed that DPS did not take this bargaining session seriously. The district offered no new ideas for creating a fair, competitive salary schedule that will keep good teachers and special service providers in our schools. Instead, DPS offered the promise of more money in the future, but after several years of broken promises, we’re not willing to accept an I.O.U. DCTA remains committed to good-faith bargaining when DPS is ready to come back to the table with a thoughtful proposal aimed at reversing the massive teacher turnover our students suffer from year after year.”

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Meanwhile, DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova told FOX31 she was also disappointed the union did not counter the district's offer.

"I think it’s really unfortunate where we are where we are right now," Cordova said. "The district put forth one proposal and got nothing in return. That's not negotiating. That’s not negotiating in good faith."

DCTA members approved a strike by a 93 percent vote Jan. 22 and are awaiting a decision by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment on whether or not the state will intervene in the labor dispute. DCTA has requested the state not intervene in the matter; that decision is expected by Feb. 11.

Denver Public Schools issued their own statement:

The DPS bargaining team heard from teachers that money was a top priority. In response, DPS shared a new proposal that builds on its Jan. 18 proposal that offered an average 10% increase for teachers and SSPs in 2019-20 through an investment of $20.5 million. The newest proposal adds $3 million new dollars into teacher compensation for 2020-21 and guarantees cost of living adjustments (COLAs) through the 2021-22 school year. With this proposal, DPS is committing an estimated $50 million new dollars in teacher increases over three years.

Superintendent Susana Cordova said: “I am disappointed that the DCTA did not engage in the discussion or bring a counter proposal. They chose to leave at 6:45 p.m. when we were scheduled to bargain until 8 pm. We came committed to negotiating, and had anticipated we would have the opportunity to share additional ideas with DCTA about the structure of the new system. We would have been willing to provide a counter-proposal if we had seen one brought forward by the Association.”

Denver Public Schools remains committed to continuing these difficult conversations while awaiting the Colorado Department of Labor’s decision on whether they will intervene.

“I know that every day matters when it comes to reaching an agreement and preventing a strike. If a strike occurs, there will a loss of instructional time for our students that cannot be recovered. For that reason, I think it is critically important that we make every effort to reach agreement before we see a strike,” Cordova added.

The negotiations between DPS and the union have been public and often packed with teachers supporting the union.

But C.J. Larkin, a DU Law School professor who specializes in ADR - Alternative Dispute Resolution - told FOX31 the talks could potentially be more productive if they were private, as mediation often is.

"It does (help) in this way - in that - people can relax a little bit. They're not completely on stage. They don’t have to watch everything they say," Larkin said.

She also said, if teachers do strike, that puts the negotiations in a new position.

"Sometimes that can hurt the mediation," Larkin said, "because people are scrambling and they feel pressured. But sometimes it can be very focusing."

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