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Denver teachers win strike

By staff |
February 14, 2019
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Denver, CO - After all night negotiations the Denver School Board, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) announced that they had reached a tentative agreement to end the teachers strike. It was announced that the strike officially ends this Friday, but teachers were free to go back to work today, February 14.

The tentative agreement was reached after three days of striking by 3700 Denver teachers, who set up picket lines and went on marches all over Denver. The strike activities ended yesterday with a large rally and subsequent march by teachers and supporters to the Denver school board headquarters. The purpose of the march was to make valentines for the school board superintendent Susana Cordova and ask her “to show some love” for Denver’s teachers.

The proposed contract is generally viewed as being favorable to the DCTA members, who have been concerned about the failure of Denver Public Schools to retain qualified teachers due to low pay. “This victory is a victory for Denver’s kids and their parents and our teachers,” said Rob Gould, a lead DCTA negotiator and teacher.

The three-year tentative contract includes a 11.7% base salary increase in the first year with full cost of living increases in the second and third years. There is a transparent 20-step salary schedule topping out at $100,000 for teachers with 20 years of experience and a doctorate.

The use of bonuses, instead of base pay increases, is decreased under the terms of the new contract. There are still bonuses for teachers who work in hard-to-staff positions and Title I schools [schools with a primarily low-income population], among other incentives, but there is an agreement to later review the use of these bonuses with an opportunity to revise the use of this type of compensation. This agreement is seen as a rebuff to the Denver School Board, which has shown a preference for encouraging the privatization of public education through the use of charter schools and also attacking the living standards of public school teachers by the use of haphazard incentive pay rather than base pay.

This contract has inspired the local labor movement. Over the last two years the DCTA, through better communication and the militant pursuit of its members interests, increased its membership from 50.1% to 76% of Denver’s teachers. This organizing work was key to the victory for Denver’s teachers and shows that, even in the age of Trump, unions can increase their membership and win.