The Denver Teacher Strike Marches Into Day Two. What Happened Yesterday?

February 12, 2019
Photo: Denver Teacher Strike Monday 15 | Capitol Rally - HVD
Denver East High School teachers arrive at a state Capitol rally Monday afternoon Feb. 11 2019. Striking Denver teachers and their supporters gathered for a raucus hour-long rally Monday Feb. 11, 2019, on the state Capitol steps.

It’s now day two of the Denver teacher strike.

Schools are open, teachers are back protesting and both sides are scheduled to restart negotiations Tuesday morning. Contract negotiations had broken down Saturday

More than 2,600 teachers, or about 56 percent of the district’s educators, exchanged the classroom for the picket line Monday. One of them was Cassandra Tafoya, and English teacher at Abraham Lincoln High in southwest Denver.

“I’m tired of my students losing good people every year to pay issues,” she said.

Tafoya has taught at Abraham Lincoln High for five years, which makes her a “veteran” because turnover is so high. She joined the strike to fight for better wages so more teachers don't leave.

“Our students, they internalize that, especially our community is high need,” Tafoya said. “So they feel insecure, they're worried all the time that the adults in their lives are going to leave them. And it's just not fair."

It wasn’t just teachers on picket lines that caused a commotion Monday.

Hundreds of students at South High left classrooms Monday and rallied in front of the school in support of their teachers. Students at North High plan to stage a walkout of their own Tuesday.

Video taken by students at East High showed kids playing music and dancing in the halls. Many eventually walked out of school.

Negotiations between Denver Public Schools and and Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the teachers union, will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday.

The biggest sticking point for the two groups remains how teachers get paid. Currently, the compensation system called ProComp gives bonuses to staff in higher-need positions, such as teaching at a Title I school. Denver voters agreed in 2005 to increase taxes to fund the system.

Rob Gould, the lead negotiator for the teacher’s union, said the strike was forcing the district to reconsider ProComp’s policies.

“Today, DPS has been forced to reflect on why we have a vision for a fair, competitive and transparent salary schedule,” Gould said at a rally at the state Capitol on Monday. “That prioritizes base salary over complicated, unreliable bonuses.”

At her press conference held earlier in the day Monday, Superintendent Susana Cordova said that while ProComp is complicated, she doesn’t believe it’s a good idea to throw out entirely.

“We’re working as hard as we can to get more money in the system, so there’s no reason I think to walk away from $33 million that our taxpayers have already dedicated to paying our teachers, as long as we adhere to the outlines of what ProComp asks us to do,” Cordova said.

Both the district and the union have said they would like to reach an agreement, and be back to work, as soon as possible.

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