DENVER (KDVR) — Denver Public Schools and the teacher’s union are hashing out the details of a new contract that expires at midnight on Wednesday. Teacher salary and classroom size are at the top of the bargaining agenda as the cost of living in Denver continues to soar.
Wednesday was a long day of negotiations; some teachers worked a full day and joined the bargaining talks after work. Teachers expressed to FOX31 that they’re burnt out, overworked and underpaid. Some shared they’ve been forced to pick up a second job to stay afloat.
Time was ticking all day Wednesday and when the clock strikes midnight, the current contract between Denver Classroom Teachers Association and DPS will expire. As of 10 p.m. no agreement had been reached.
The goal is to reach an agreement on several hot-button issues that union members aren’t afraid to push back on. In 2019, the union went on strike for the first time in 25 years and demanded better pay. This strike lasted for three days, and hundreds of teachers walked out of class, rallying at the state Capitol.
The strike proved to be effective and led to a more than 11% raise for most, but now teacher salary is back on the negotiation table.
With inflation and Denver’s high cost of living, Jacqueline Falcon said another strike can’t be ruled out.
“It’s just really unfair. Food prices have gone up, the price of gas, everything is going up,” Falcon said. “If it’s not met, I think that it should be considered because there’s no other choice.”
DTCA told FOX31 the current starting salary is $45,800 and they’re now asking for $55,000. Falcon has been at DPS for 31 years and said it’s not just pay that’s the problem. She says things for teachers have “deteriorated.”
“It’s almost gotten to the point where it’s just almost not fun anymore,” Falcon said. “It’s just a lot of work and a lot of stress. Everyone in this room loves teaching, but it’s just becoming too overwhelming.”
Falcon adds that overcrowded classrooms and overwhelming workloads are causing burnout and stress.
“It can be chaotic because there’s so many different needs in the classroom and there’s so many kids,” Falcon said. “I tell my kids it’s just me versus 35 of you.”
Edwin Hudson, DPS Chief Talent Officer, said the district is listening to the concerns of teachers and is optimistic.
“We still have work to do,” Hudson said. “Things have been going well. The tone has been great and we really appreciate that. We think that we’re going to have an agreement today. I’m still optimistic that we will have an agreement today.”
If an agreement is not reached by midnight, the district and union could choose to extend their current contract and keep negotiating.