Denver teachers planning first strike in 25 years

Barring a last-minute agreement, Denver’s public school teachers on Monday plan to walk off the job for the first in a quarter of a century. The contract dispute follows a six-day strike by teachers last month in Los Angeles and a series of labor actions in 2018 by educators in half a dozen states.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the union that represents most of the district’s 5,600 teachers — is demanding a hike in pay.

“No teacher wants to strike — we would rather be teaching students in our classrooms,” Denver teacher and DCTA President Henry Roman said in a statement. “The district’s revolving door of teacher turnover must stop. DPS must improve teacher pay to keep quality, experienced teachers in Denver classrooms.”

Denver Public School leaders have said they’ll keep all 161 schools in the district open during any strike, other than early childhood education classes, which would be canceled. The district has 90,000 students.

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Denver schools Superintendent Susana Cordova struck an optimistic note, saying district officials would continue to negotiate with the DCTA.

“We are close to reaching common ground. With continued hard work, honest dialogue and an authentic exchange of proposals, I believe we can reach an agreement and avoid a strike,” she said in a statement late Wednesday.

Cordova also expressed empathy for teachers. “When you look at the manner in our state when we fund our schools, we have less money today than we did pre-recession, and clearly cost-of-living has way surpassed that, so it was really challenging,” said Cordova, according to the Denver Post.

School leaders estimate a teacher walkout would cost the district more than $400,000 a day.

Denver and other school district across Colorado saw large teacher walkouts last April, with educators rallying at the state Capitol for increased public funding.

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Over the last year, teachers have been at the forefront of worker activism, animated by frustration over stagnant pay and dwindling education funding. That has resulted in bulging classroom sizes and forced many educators to work second jobs.

The labor unrest is also playing out this week in Oakland, California, where teachers who’ve been working without a contract since July 2017 voted to strike as soon as this month if an agreement cannot be reached. In Virginia, thousands of teachers marched last month at the state Capitol to demand pay hike and increased school funding.

In Chicago, a more unusual strike is occurring, with unionized teachers at four privately run but publicly funded charter schools walking out of the classrooms this week, demanding higher pay and smaller class sizes.

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