Denver teachers strike over pay disputes

Denver teachers strike over pay disputes

Denver's teachers started picketing before the start of the school day and students crossed through the picket lines on their way to class in some locations.

According to school officials, representatives from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association walked out of the talks on Saturday, and won't return to the negotiation table until Tuesday despite a plea from Superintendent Susana Cordova to continue working to avoid a strike.

Last month, 93% of the union's almost 3,000 members voted to strike after negotiations with the school district failed. Another negotiation session is set for Tuesday.

Although teachers in some states are barred from striking, teachers in Colorado have a right to walk off the job.

For the past 20 years, Denver teachers have been paid under a program called the "Professional Compensation System for Teachers", or ProComp, for short.

"You can't bank anything on what you're going to make each year because they have these little bonuses that come and go", said Spanish teacher Kelsey Brown. "Without our teachers, this world wouldn't work".

Several students at a Denver high school were seen crowding the hallways, blasting music and dancing as teachers were on strike Monday, with one student describing the scene as "chaotic".

South High School was not alone. But the talks went nowhere, meaning up to 92,000 students will go to school without their teachers indefinitely. The school retaliated by refusing the students readmittance. Staff shortages, though, forced the cancellation of early childhood education classes. Clips show students yelling and dancing.

According to an email sent to parents, students at Denver Discovery School were told not to bring their backpacks, binders, or anything of value to school during the strike, the Denver Post reported. "It's a last resort - especially for teachers who are asked to do more with less every day", she said. Outraged students revealed that they were gathered in the auditorium in the morning and given bogus "assignments" to keep them busy. In a clear attempt at intimidation, the DPS has warned that such absences will be marked as "unexcused" and therefore jeopardize student grades.

The instances highlight the emboldened public education agenda among one of the nation's most politically powerful forces - the almost 5 million members of the two major national teachers unions, the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. During the rally at the state capitol building on Monday, Democratic politicians made photo op appearances, and NEA head Lily Eskelsen Garcia (salary $414,824) addressed the crowd with the usual appeals about voting for Democrats in the next elections.

On social media, some local substitute teachers indicated that they would refuse to cross the picket line. Last week, teachers in Oakland, California, voted overwhelmingly to strike after unsuccessful negotiations over pay hikes, class sizes and additional support staff, setting up a strike for any time after February 15. The strike comes at the end of 15 months of negotiations. In fact, the union has done everything to prevent strikes and to isolate and defeat them if they erupt.

"Qualified DPS staff, including certified guest teachers and administrators with educator licenses, will be in schools providing instruction during the strike", the school district said.

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