Denver Teachers Strike for Higher Pay in #RedForEd Campaign

Denver Public Schools teachers and members of the community picket outside South High School on February 11, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. Denver teachers are striking for the first time in 25 years after the school district and the union representing the educators failed to reach an agreement after 14 months …
Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images
DR. SUSAN BERRY

Teachers of Denver Public Schools (DPS) are walking out for higher pay Monday in the first teachers’ strike the city has seen in 25 years.

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers’ union, is led by Lily Eskelsen Garcia and is calling for support for the striking teachers, using the hashtag #RedForEd, a radical socialist movement that Marxist teacher Noah Karvelis launched in Arizona:

When NEA championed the Virginia teachers’ protest in January, NEA Today, the union’s media outlet, noted, “The rally is the latest Red for Ed action in a series of events ranging from the teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma, to the recently concluded L.A. teachers strike”:

The Denver Post reported the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) did not show up for negotiations with the school district Sunday night following failed contract talks on Saturday. The union said it would plan to strike and not resume negotiations until Tuesday.

“We will strike Monday for our students and for our profession, and perhaps then DPS will get the message and return to the bargaining table with a serious proposal aimed at solving the teacher turnover crisis in Denver,” Henry Roman, DCTA president, said in a statement.

DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said she was disappointed union officials did not show up Sunday.

“We presented an updated proposal that responds to what we heard from our teachers, aligns to our values of equity and retention, honors the ProComp ballot language and significantly increases the base pay for all of our educators,” Cordova said in a statement. “Despite the union’s refusal to continue negotiating, we remain committed to working with the leadership of the DCTA to end this strike.”

In an email on Sunday, however, the union said the school district “continued to bring proposals that exacerbate the problems educators are trying to fix. Both parties will take time to cool off and come back together Tuesday.”

The Post described the outcome of talks on Saturday evening:

Emotions swirled as union representatives rejected a new DPS proposal that cut central office jobs in an effort to free up more money for teacher pay. District negotiators said the plan moved DPS closer to the union financially — but the union decried it as “deceptive.”

The union’s decision to end negotiations came after DPS quickly rejected its counteroffer to the district’s proposal, which had called for the elimination of 150 positions in the district’s central office in an effort to free up $20 million over the next two years to help fund teacher pay.

DPS said its offer on Saturday puts $23 million in new funds into teachers’ base salaries next year, and a total of $55 million over the next three years. The district said its latest proposal would result in a nearly 11 percent increase in teachers’ salaries next year.

DCTA’s lead negotiator, Rob Gould, however, said, “I think we’re at this point where you keep asking teachers to compromise over and over.”

“What else do you want from us, Susana?” he asked. “We give you our lives. What are you willing to give us?”

The school district and the union agreed on a starting salary of $45,800.

As USA Today reported, school officials attempted to increase pay for some teachers by creating bonuses for high performance, but the union wants all teachers to obtain base raises and cost-of-living increases, regardless of performance.

With the “ProComp” system, launched in 2005, teachers obtain raises for helping students achieve higher test scores or for working in more difficult schools.

“We are incredibly disappointed that on the last day of bargaining and less than two days before a strike, they doubled down on one-time incentives teachers do not want,” Roman said, according to the Post:

Denver Public Schools officials announced Sunday that all of the district’s schools will remain open Monday. According to the Post, the school district has added 300 additional substitute teachers to its regular roster of 1,200 substitutes. Further gaps will be filled by 1,400 central administrative office employees.

Some interviewed by the Post expressed concern about the effects that a long strike will have on students.

Henry Waldstreicher, a senior at George Washington High School, said he will picket with his teachers at 6:30 a.m. but be in class by 7:25 a.m.

Waldstreicher said he supports his “incredible” teachers but admitted he is worried that, without an agreement after a few days of striking, students like himself will get behind in their studies.

Nick Onofrio, a parent of a third-grader said he is disheartened by the hostility expressed between the union and the school district.

“We will send our child to school optimistic they will receive some level of education,” he said, adding that he also urges “DPS and the DCTA to work together to a reasonable short-term solution.”

Central office employee Alex Maddock, who will be serving in the schools during the strike, echoed concern about the animosity between the union and the school district. While he supports the teachers, he believes the union’s handling of the negotiations was not appropriate.

“I am embarrassed to be a DPS employee today,” he said.

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