Since last spring, the public has witnessed a growing number of teachers who have expressed their frustration with the level of education funding from both the state legislature and their own districts’ compensation plans. In April last year, thousands of teachers rallied multiple days at the State Capitol Building as the legislature discussed the School Finance Act. In May, Pueblo School District 60 teachers held a five day strike successfully demanding an increase in pay.
Denver teachers have been ready to strike for months. Saturday evening, during once again failed negotiations, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association’s (DCTA) lead negotiator became very angry and abruptly ended the meeting stating we will see you on Tuesday. Teachers erupted into a chant as they walked out of the room. If you view the last 10 minutes of Saturday’s archived video of the negotiations, you can experience the drama yourself.
We don’t believe that Denver Public Schools (DPS) is without fault. Everyone knows they are top heavy with administration and rumor has it the district office can have trouble delivering services. However, we do admire its encouragement of educational options. The district boasts of 60 charter schools and 49 Innovation Schools. Both types of schools may receive waivers from district policy and state law. Several charter networks are closing the achievement gap.
The district and the union are philosophically so far apart that a compromise seems difficult. For a more comprehensive view of the on-going dialogue between both parties read Chalkbeat’s regular articles. However, we will mention here what seems to be one of the most contentious differences. The union wants the district to lower ProComp incentives for teachers who teach in high priority schools and completely eliminate the additional bonus proposed for teaching in the top 30 highest priority schools and use the funds for an increase in base pay.
The DPS Board is accountable for providing its students with an equitable education. Yet, according to an A+ Colorado report, with almost 70% of DPS students qualified for the Free or Reduced Federal Lunch Program, only 13% of those DPS students were proficient on the 2017 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) fourth-grade math assessment, tying with Austin for the third largest achievement gap in the nation. In fourth-grade reading, DPS low-income students were in about the middle of the pack of large urban areas.
In another report, A+ Colorado states that only one in three DPS third-graders read at grade level. The school district’s board of education is accountable for student performance. Obviously, the board sees financial incentives decrease teacher turnover in the most challenging schools.
Unions are known for having a collective mentality. Union leaders grimace when some are paid more than others, no matter the performance level of the individuals.