Denver Classroom Teachers Association strike leaders and teachers celebrated their tentative contract deal with Denver Public Schools Friday afternoon Feb. 15, 2019, in City Park.

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News

The Denver teachers union overwhelmingly ratified the tentative agreement reached with Denver Public Schools on Feb. 14.

Voting wrapped up Sunday, with more than 97 percent of union members approving the agreement.

The deal raises salaries for 5,353 teachers as well as support staff like nurses and school psychologists by an average of 11.7 percent beginning next school year. It includes two guaranteed cost of living increases for the following two years.

"This agreement secures fair, predictable base pay for Denver educators and will go a long way to eliminating pay fluctuations that have made it difficult for educators to plan a teaching career and a life in Denver," said Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. 

Teachers went on strike Feb. 11 over pay and what they called an unpredictable and complicated bonus system

The two sides negotiated major changes. Teachers can now advance their salaries by going back to school for an advanced degree or working with the district for many years, and most significantly, they can earn credits towards degrees through professional development courses. 

The agreement reallocated funds from many incentives to a higher base pay. Teachers who work in the highest-priority schools will still receive bonuses. The deal also includes a $750 bonus for teachers in "distinguished" schools that meet a high level of social and emotional supports for students.

Lincoln Elementary teacher Suzette Montera-Smith voted to ratify the agreement.

"I think the base salary is really going to retain veteran teachers in Denver," Montera-Smith said at a rally after ending the strike earlier in February. 

When Montera-Smith reached her 14th year of teaching and earned her master’s degree, there was no way to move up in the salary schedule. She said she went many years without a raise. 

"This is going to push me up a lot higher in my income," Montera-Smith said.

The ratification vote was the last step the teacher’s union needed to take to officially end the 15-month Pro Comp bargaining sessions.

The final step before the agreement takes effect is a vote on it from the Denver school board. The date for a vote is still to be determined