DPS proposes starting base pay of $45,000 a year
The latest contract proposal by Denver Public Schools to add millions of new dollars to base pay for teachers and offering bonuses for educators working in high poverty schools may still not be enough to avert a teacher strike early next year.
The current pact between the district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association expires Jan. 18 and the union said its members are prepared to walk out of classrooms the next day if an agreement is not reached on time. DPS last week offered a new salary structure that would boost the salary for first-year teachers by nearly 8 percent, to $45,000 annually.
But the DPS package still falls short of a long-stated union goal of paying a teacher with 20 years of positive evaluations and a doctorate a base salary of $100,000 a year. “If you have committed to a career in teaching and worked to better yourself through education, you should make $100,000,” DCTA spokesman Corey Kern said.
If that milestone is not reached by Jan. 18, teachers are committed to walking out, Kern said. “Or we could vote to affirm the contract.”
The highest base salary a teacher with about 30 years’ experience and a combination of advanced degrees can earn is $90,750 under the current proposal, according to the education website Chalkbeat.
Still, the package offered last week by DPS earned grudging praise by the union. “It looks like the district is moving forward in our direction a little bit,” Kern said. “We are still looking at the details of what they put on the table.”
The district proposes increasing by $11 million the amount of money DPS spends out of its $1 billion budget on teacher pay. The new money would come largely from increases in state funding and cuts to the district’s central office, officials said.
DPS said it would also simplify its pay-for-performance system, which has been attacked by the union for being too complicated. DPS said it is offering to invest more money in predictable annual salaries and less in one-time bonuses.
Incentives of up to $2,500 will also be given for teachers working in high-poverty classrooms and hard-to-fill jobs, such as teaching secondary math or in Spanish-language classrooms. About 75 percent of the district’s roughly 5,000 teachers would earn one of those bonuses, the district said.
But the union and DPS have disagreed on the size of the bonuses and incentives, with the teacher group favoring larger base salaries and incentives as low as $1,000.
Boosting a starting teacher’s salary to $45,000 — from the current $41,689 — would be higher than what is offered in Cherry Creek, Aurora, Jefferson County, Adams Five-Star and Littleton school districts.
The sole finalist for the district’s superintendent job, Susana Cordova,has said the district should invest more in base pay for teachers.
DPS will also grow tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness for teachers by 25 percent, so that educators are eligible for up to $1,000 a year, for a maximum of $5,000.