Denver Teachers Go on Strike Over Pay Dispute

Denver school leaders, teachers negotiate trying to avoid strike

While Denver families are now dealing with the reality of a strike that's in progress, Denver Public School officials and the Denver Classrooms Teachers Association will head back to the bargaining table on Tuesday in an attempt reach a deal.

CNN shared stories on Monday of the struggles of some Denver teachers, including a physical education teacher who drives a Lyft on off-hours to cover his bills, a Spanish teacher who hasn't made enough in nine years of teaching to start a savings account, and two teachers who are considering leaving the field because they can't afford to live on their paltry salaries.

"Many of the students in this group are in need of the most critical support to maintain their health and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions", says the lawsuit, filed Monday in federal district court by a Colorado law firm.

District officials vowed to keep all 207 schools open through the strike, staffed by substitute teachers and administration personnel. A video shared widely on social media showed students occupying hallways later in the day at East High School, defying orders that they attend classes taught by substitutes.

The strike follows more than a year of negotiations over wages, the Denver Post reported.

The school district has already cancelled class for 5,000 preschool children, with an additional 71,000 students across 147 schools also being affected by the strike. Adopted in 2009, the system tied teacher evaluations to test scores and established a pay structure that gives teachers who are rated highly effective up to $25,000 in bonuses.

Union leaders told reporters they were frustrated with failed talks over the weekend aimed at reaching a deal. Negotiations are set to resume Tuesday morning.

Thousands of Denver teachers walked out Monday, after the teachers union and the school district couldn't agree on how much teachers would be paid. However, the district sees those particular bonuses as key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.

There has been a wave of teacher activism in the U.S. since last spring, when teachers walked out in West Virginia.

There have since been walkouts in Washington state, Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma, as teachers protest low pay, crowded classrooms and staffing shortages.

The Los Angeles teachers ended up getting the same six percent raise offered early on by the nation's second-largest school district. Denver teachers say the reliance on bonuses in the district leads to high turnover, which they say hurts students, and that spending money on smaller class sizes and adding support staff, like counselors, is the best way to help disadvantaged students learn. They also hope that a win on pay will help them when it comes time to negotiate other issues when their overall contract expires in two years.

The state says a walkout will cost about $400,000 a day and would consume 1 to 2 percent of the district's annual operating budget in about a week.

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

Last month, 93% of the union's almost 3,000 members voted to strike after negotiations with the school district failed.

The strike was on again after Polis, a Democrat, decided on Wednesday not to get involved, believing the positions of both sides were not that far apart. But the walkout was put on hold because the school district asked the state to intervene.

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