After staging the country’s ninth major teachers’ strike in the past 12 months, teachers on Thursday scored the latest victory for their students, communities, and profession as they reached a tentative deal with the school district that they say will help combat the city’s teacher turnover crisis.
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) this week went on strike for three days, calling for changes to their compensation system which they say has been driving teachers away from the city as wages stagnate and housing grows more expensive.
After an all-night bargaining session, the DCTA and Denver Public Schools announced that they had reached an agreement that would send teachers back to their classrooms as early as Thursday afternoon.
“This agreement is a win, plain and simple: for our students; for our educators; and for our communities,” DCTA President Henry Roman said in a statement. “No longer will our students see their education disrupted because their teachers cannot afford to stay in their classrooms.”
Local politicians and the National Education Association (NEA) offered congratulations and thanks to the 2,600 educators who had walked out of their classrooms, for standing up for their profession and their students.
After 14 months of negotiations, Denver teachers voted to go on strike for the first time in 25 years, demanding higher base salaries and a more stable compensation system to replace the unpredictable bonuses which have been given out and sometimes taken away from year to year.
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The agreement reached early Thursday will give teachers a seven to 11 percent raise, put in place a transparent salary schedule, institute cost-of-living raises, and do away with “exorbitant five-figure bonuses” for school administrators.
“Educators in Denver Public Schools now have a fair, predictable, transparent salary schedule. We’re happy to get back to work,” Rob Gould, DCTA’s lead negotiator, told the Denver Post.
“Teachers will be able to stay in Denver, and we’ll be able to keep our experienced educators here for our students,” he told CNN.
As New York Times reporter Dana Goldstein wrote on social media, the Denver teachers’s strike is part of a nationwide “social movement”—with similar walkouts having taken place in Los Angeles, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona in the past year.
In Oakland, California, teachers voted to authorize their own strike earlier this month. An independent fact finder is currently conducting an assessment of the district, with a potential walkout beginning after this week.
Oakland teachers also say low wages have caused difficulties with recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. Educators there earn just $46,500 to start and an average of about $63,000—in a city with the nation’s fourth-highest cost of living.
The Oakland Education Association’s (OEA) decision to strike sent “a clear message that our members are ready to fight for the schools our students deserve,” union president Keith Brown told the San Francisco Chronicle. “This powerful vote is a mandate for smaller class size, more student support, a living wage, and it is a mandate to keep our neighborhood schools open.”
As Denver teachers fought for their own students and schools this week, they also showed solidarity with Oakland teachers.
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