Published: Tue, February 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Denver teachers strike in bid to dismantle pay-for-performance system

Denver teachers strike in bid to dismantle pay-for-performance system

The strike, Denver's first in 25 years, could affect more than 71,000 students at 147 schools. As Denver teachers take to the picket lines, Oakland, California, teachers have voted by 95 percent to strike as early as next week; West Virginia teachers and school workers have voted "overwhelmingly" to strike or engage in any work action necessary to oppose a pro-privatization education bill; Wright State, Ohio, faculty and Chicago charter school teachers are on strike. "We would invest those funds directly in our highest-needs schools, with a proposed increase in incentive pay for teaching in our schools with the highest poverty rates", the school district said.

After picketing outside schools Monday, hundreds of teachers joined members of other unions and at least some students for a march that took them down busy streets and past City Hall.

Other recent teacher demonstrations, like the teacher walkout in Los Angeles last month, focused on more than pay, such as reducing class size and other issues more directly related to students.

As is universally the case, the primary concern of Denver educators is low pay. Denver Public School (DPS) spokeswoman Anna Alejo said many students "chose to walk out" and school leaders did not encourage students to leave, The Post reported.

A last flurry of negotiating sessions between DPS and the DCTA failed to produce the sort of breakthrough that might have prevented a walkout. "The substitutes were trying as hard as they could, but there was just too many people".

Denver's first teachers' strike in a quarter of a century is the result of 11th-hour negotiations that collapsed over the weekend.

Denver schoolteachers are going on strike today.

But Superintendent Susana Cordova says the district's proposal "responds to what we heard from our teachers" and "significantly increases the base pay for all of our educators", the AP reports.

Members of the DCTA voted January 22 to strike.

In encouraging both sides to come to an agreement, Colorado Governor Jared Polis has pointed out that this money will no longer be available to help pay teachers once it is spent on the strike. Administrators were so overwhelmed dealing with assorted troubles at the school that they were essentially unavailable to help teachers at the classroom level, even when scenarios involving students, parents or guardians turned potentially risky.

The main sticking points in the talks over a contract governing Denver's incentive pay system, which started over a year ago, are lowering bonuses to put more money in teachers' base pay and how to allow teachers to advance in pay based on education and training, as followed by most school districts. Union president Henry Roman said teachers were committed to reaching a deal but said that both sides needed a cooling off period. In 2015, Seattle teachers started the school year by striking for five days. On the other hand, if students experience chaotic conditions inside their schools, pressure for the strike to end could grow.

Teachers picket outside East High School.

"Offers our teachers an nearly 11-percent increase for next year and to hear the feedback and to be in a position that, rather than sticking with it and figuring out, I'm incredibly disappointed that they walked away", stated Susana Cordova, DPS superintendent. It released a statement after the Saturday meeting saying the district proposal lacks transparency and "pushes for failed incentives for some over meaningful base salary for all".

Teachers plan to picket around the city beginning Monday as the district tries to keep schools open by staffing them with administrators and substitutes.

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