Some claims from DPS and teachers union need more context ahead of potential strike

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DENVER – As the Denver Classroom Teachers Association prepares for a second round of voting on a possible strike from Denver Public Schools, the Problem Solvers are checking claims made by both sides for accuracy.

After 10 hours of negotiations on Friday, DPS and DCTA walked away from stalled negotiations. Teachers still want more money than the district is offering.

“They said we needed more money in base [salary]. We’ve done that,” DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said in a video message.

Under their latest proposal, DPS says highlights including an “average starting salary of $48,000 with one incentive”.

According to the proposed salary table, some teachers could earn less than $48,000. The lowest base salary for a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree is $45,500.

The district says two out of three teachers earn at least one incentive bonus worth $2,500 for working at a Title I school, a high-priority school or in a hard-to-staff position. A new teacher would need to earn one incentive to earn the $48,000 starting salary DPS is talking about.

DCTA wants to get rid of the incentive structure altogether in favor of higher base salaries across the board. DPS does not agree.

“Incentivizing teachers to work in our high-poverty schools is a critical component to our strategy to close the [educational opportunity] gap,” Cordova said.

DPS also claims the latest proposal provides teachers “with pathways to a $100,000 salary.” According to the proposed salary table, it is possible to earn up to $105,000 as a teacher in the district.

However, in order to be eligible for the highest salary, a teacher would need a doctoral degree and have 30 years of experience. A teacher with 27 years of experience and a Ph.D could earn $100,000 with incentive bonuses.

Some argue the requirements would be nearly impossible to meet.

“It’s really hard to last in a career where you don’t feel valued, and where you feel like you’re being taken advantage of,” East High School teacher Tiffany Choi told FOX31.

DCTA believes in order to attract and keep quality teachers, DPS needs to put another $8 million toward salaries. According to a press release from the union, “the amount is less than 1 percent of the total DPS budget.”

That is true. According to DPS, “for school year 2017-18, DPS projects General Fund revenue at ~$970 Million.” The $8 million DCTA is asking for would be less than 1 percent of the budget.

One reason DCTA claims teachers need a salary increase is because “Denver teachers spend on average $750 annually out of their own pockets to support student needs.”

While there are no Denver-specific stats available, the U.S. Department of Education released findings from a nationwide survey in May 2018 showing 80 percent of teachers spend $500 on classroom supplies.

Either way, the union argues that without the increases they’re asking for, teachers can’t realistically afford to spend any money out-of-pocket on classroom expenses.

DCTA members will vote again on Tuesday on the possible strike. If they vote to strike, legally the strike cannot begin until Jan. 28.

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