DENVER — The deadline is looming for Denver Public Schools and the teachers union. They must reach an agreement on an improved salary system for educators by the end of this week, or teachers in Colorado’s largest school district could go on strike. This would be the first strike in the district since 1994.
“Yes, we’re scared, but at the same time, were ready to do what we need to do in order to make sure Denver kids continue to have great teachers,” Robert Gould said.
Gould is one of the 5,600 educators in the DPS system. Gould and his wife are both teachers in the district, with children. They are ready to dip into their savings to make ends meet should a strike happen.
“We have savings. We’ve been telling teachers for the last few months to prepare for this,” Gould said.
Gould is also on the front lines of the debate. He is the lead negotiator for the union, which is the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. He said with the current salary structure, his wife’s paycheck has decreased in the last few years.
“We lived in Denver our entire lives and when we wanted to expand our family, we couldn’t afford to live in Denver and teach in Denver, so every day we drive an hour each way,” Gould said.
One of the incentives in the Denver Public Schools proposal is to raise the average teacher’s base pay by ten percent. However, Gould says that would not be enough to retain good teachers.
“Mid-career teachers could actually go down the street if you compare them to surrounding districts. They could make anywhere from $7,000 to $13,000 more for leaving the district,” Gould said.
Gould said as part of this agreement, teachers are looking for a higher base salary instead of bonuses. He’s said they’re fed up with struggling to get by, as roughly one in five Colorado teachers work second jobs.
“We don’t want to go on strike. We want to be there for the kids in the classroom, but we also need to be there as a teacher and say to Denver, ‘Hey, pay us what we’re worth.”
There will be three more full days of negotiations between the district and the union taking place on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
If both parties don’t reach an agreement, the union will vote whether to strike on Saturday.