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Deal Reached! Denver Teachers Return to Classes

Another teachers strike comes to an end as Denver teachers reached a deal and returned to schools.

The Denver Public School district and local teachers union reached a temporary compromise agreement at 6:00 on Thursday morning, ending the teacher strike on its fourth day.

Representatives from the Denver Public School (DPS) district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) negotiated through the night on Wednesday, February 13, and reached a deal that will inject an average 11.7 percent raise in educators’ salaries, according to DPS Chief Financial Officer Mark Ferrandino.

To account for the additional $23.1 million allocated to teacher pay, the district cut 150 central office positions and other administrative costs.

The two parties have negotiated the salary contract for over 14 months, unable to reach consensus over the funds set aside for educators and the pay system used to distribute it. After Colorado Governor Jared Polis rejected the district’s request for state intervention on February 6, DCTA members decided to stage a walkout beginning on Monday, February 11.

The three active days of picketing, public advocacy and demonstrations marked the first teacher strike to occur in Denver in 25 years.

“We didn’t want to have to go to the strike,” lead DCTA negotiator Rob Gould told Chalkbeat. “But the ability to utilize our last tool in our tool belt to get the district to listen to our needs – we used it, and I think it’s a victory for our teachers but more importantly, for our students.”

Denver strike end Gould

David Gould, lead union negotiator, speaks with the media after reaching a tentative agreement with the district on Thursday morning.

DPS schools experienced some chaos starting on Monday, when the district reported that 2,631 teachers chose to participate in the strike, leaving the responsibility of their classrooms and students in the hands of administrators and substitutes. 

Students Walkout in Support of Denver Teacher Strike

Some students also chose to host a walkout of their own, reporting reasons of solidarity with their teachers or frustration with administrative hiccups such as adjusted schedules and emergency lesson plans.

About a quarter of students in the district were absent from school on Monday, and schools saw reductions in those who showed up to receive free breakfast and lunch from the school district.

The Denver Deal

DPS Superintendent Susanna Cordova, Gould and fellow representatives met for negotiations Monday and Tuesday, navigating a new salary schedule for educators, with pay lanes which reflect their experience and education, and opportunities for advancement due to personal evaluations. 

The final session of negotiations began Wednesday at 9 a.m., and focused on the bonus and incentive system advocated for by the district to encourage teacher retention.

The agreement reached more than 21 hours later ensured a $2,000 incentive for those at high-poverty schools or in hard-to-fill positions. 

The union compromised to include a $3,000 incentive for teachers in the highest priority schools, though they expressed doubt in this strategy to improve conditions, and argued that approaches like smaller class sizes and hiring more teachers of color would create more meaningful change.

“We are open to the incentive because we know it’s important to you,” Gould said. “And we’re willing to entertain your ideas if we can get the base salary schedule that our teachers need.”

The tentative deal will be finalized when members of DCTA and the district vote to approve it. Today, teachers began to return to their classes.


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