Denver Teachers’ Union Walks Out on Negotiations

Newly appointed superintendent Susana Cordova faces the Denver Classroom Teachers Association during negotiations over a compensation package in Denver on Jan. 31, 2018. (Amanda Pampuro/CNS)

DENVER (CN) – Teachers showered a new compensation proposal presented by Denver public schools Superintendant Susana Cordova Thursday night with boos, jeers of “shame,” and Twisted Sister song lyrics.

“We’re not gonna take it, no we ain’t gonna take it,” about 300 parents and teachers sang out. “We’re not gonna take it anymore.”

The district’s new proposal would add $3 million to teachers’ salary pot beginning in 2021, as well as an increase in cost-of-living adjustment and a promise to reinvest turnover salaries back into wages for new hires. The district is offering to budget $51.5 million for teacher salary, but the union which voted to strike last week remained unswayed.

“They didn’t bring a proposal, they brought an IOU,” said Denver Classroom Teachers Association President Henry Roman. “I want to apologize for bringing you all out here and wasting your time.”

Despite more than a year of negotiations, an $8.5 million gap remains between the teachers’ requested pay and the district’s offer. The district offered an average 10 percent raise per teacher, but the union is holding out for 12.5 percent pay raises that are less reliant on bonuses. ProComp, their compensation agreement, expired on March 14, 2018, but was extended through Jan. 18 pending negotiations.

The ProComp system adopted by Denver voters in 2005 touts financial incentives to teachers in disadvantaged schools and who meet certain educational goals. Any agreement must honor the ProComp mill levy language or the district would lose $33 million in funding.

The union criticized the pay system as unpredictable, dangling incentives based on results that are beyond the control of individual teachers or that the district lacks the data to accurately evaluate. Critics of the system also say the rating system gives school administrators an unfair and subjective advantage over teachers.

The district’s commitment to $51.5 million would pull $15 million from 100 eliminated central office positions as well as $10.5 million in other budget cuts.

“We are going to talk about how the district calculates [cost of living] and the way we calculate it will be transparent,” said Mark Ferrandino, the district’s chief Financial Officer. But the district was cut off before it could complete its pitch.

“We came here in good faith,” Roman said. “Susana you came here talking about how you were different from the previous administration, but Susana you are the previous administration.”

Ten days remain for the Colorado Department of Employment and Labor to decide whether or not to intervene at the district’s request and prevent the teachers from going on strike. 

Current teacher salary starts at $39,851 with the district average of $50,449. The school district’s proposed budget would increase starting pay to $45,5000, tipping the average teacher salary up to $55,819 along with offering “ProComp-eligible” incentives.

The district has said it would pay substitute teachers double wages to work through a strike—$212 a day—and teachers observed as boxes of “sub plans” were delivered to schools.

“We are providing lessons plans and materials to make sure that our kids continue to be educated,” said school district communications director Will Jones. “We are also providing resources to many of our central office staff members to help prepare them for roles as guest teachers.”

Encompassing 178 schools, DPS is the largest district in the state, serving more than 90,000 students.

“I’m very disappointed we are where we are,” Cordova said with her back to the red-shirted crowd. “Now we’ve given two proposals with changes in structure and changes in funds and we’ll keep negotiating.”

While the crowd and the union stormed out, Cordova returned to the conference room with members of the school board noting that negotiations had been scheduled until 8 p.m., and she was going to stay until then.

%d bloggers like this: