DENVER – While a large number of Denver Public Schools teachers are expected to strike Monday morning, some have already decided to cross the picket line.
"I told my principal two days ago, 'I do not plan on striking, so you can expect me to be in the classroom,'" Sophia Leung told FOX31.
Leung is a 3rd-grade math teacher at Ashley Elementary School, which serves students in the Park Hill, Montclair and Stapleton neighborhoods. It is considered at Title I school, meaning a majority of the students' families are low-income.
“I know I can get paid more in other districts, but it’s the kids that are there that need that support,” Leung said.
This is her first year teaching. She makes the lowest level base salary offered to DPS teachers, which is $42,790. She also earns an additional $1,540 incentive for working at a Title I school.
Leung says she can not afford to live in the neighborhood where she teaches.
“It’s not just because we want higher pay, but for me, I can’t live in Denver,” she said.
Leung lives with two roommates in an apartment in Broomfield. She commutes 15 miles each way to Ashley Elementary. She says she struggles just to make ends meet.
“I’m understanding what it’s like to live in Colorado, the bills here. I definitely do need to get a second job. That’s something I’m looking into. Most likely a restaurant job,” Leung said.
While she wants to join her fellow teachers in striking for better pay, Leung says her budget is so tight, she simply can’t afford to lose a day’s pay on the picket line.
“Right now, I have no savings,” Leung said. “If I took a day off, I know that for some it’s like, 'Oh it’s only $200.' But for me, that’s like $200. That’s my student loan [payment] right there,” she said.
Leung is currently paying back her student loans for her bachelor’s degree while also pursuing a master’s degree.
She says her school and colleagues have been supportive of her decision to stay in the classroom during the strike.
“Our school, they’re supportive of everyone and they understand if you have to cross the picket line, it’s for personal reasons. It’s not because you don’t support it,” Leung said.