Teachers in Denver, Colorado plan to go on strike starting on Monday, after failing to negotiate a new contract with Denver Public Schools over the weekend.
According to the Associated Press, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association was unimpressed by the school district’s proposal, arguing it “pushes for failed incentives for some over meaningful base salary for all.” One of the union’s biggest arguments is that the district should offer lower bonuses in exchange for higher base salaries:
The two sides disagree about pay increases and bonuses for teachers in high-poverty schools and other schools that the district considers a priority. Teachers want lower bonuses to free up money for better overall salaries, while administrators say the bonuses are necessary to boost the academic performance of poor and minority students.
Bonuses paid to teachers with more than 14 years of experience do not become part of their base pay, which critics say encourages high turnover and hurts students. Both sides have agreed to get rid of that provision but disagree about how big the bonuses should be for teachers working in high-poverty schools and in schools deemed a high priority by the district.
The strike follows on the heels of teachers’ strikes in Los Angeles, Oklahoma, Arizona, and West Virginia. Teachers have argued that low and stagnant salaries, increasingly expensive benefits, and overall neglect have made it difficult, if not nearly impossible for them to do their jobs, a sentiment bolstered by high rates of turnover in recent years.
In Denver, teachers say their salaries are so low in comparison with the city’s high cost of living that they can’t afford rent. Sean Bowers, a high school physical education teacher who earns a $42,000-per-year base salary, told CNN he supplements his income by coaching and moonlighting as a Lyft driver so he can stay in the apartment he shares with three other people. “We’re not asking for a million dollars,” he said. “We’re asking for an extra $200 to $300 per paycheck so that I can save up so that I can buy a house and live in my community and not jump from house to house.”
The strike is the first in Denver in 25 years.