DENVER – The Denver Classroom Teacher Association asked the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment Monday not to intervene in the ongoing disagreement between the union and Denver Public Schools over teacher salaries, a response to the request the district made last week.
“Denver teachers believe state intervention in our negotiations with DPS would be futile,” DCTA President Henry Roman said in a statement Monday after the union responded to the state.
“DCTA certainly appreciates the time, resources and energy that state officials have dedicated to monitoring this labor dispute. But our officials need to fully appreciate we have studied the options for a new compensation agreement with DPS for five years, with very intense negotiations over the last 14 months,” Roman added. “Reopening negotiations will not be productive until DPS recognizes our need for a fair, predictable salary schedule and commits to bring more funding to the public bargaining table.”
According to DCTA, its letter to the Department of Labor and Employment said that the relationship between the union and district is in “a state of disrepair” and that state intervention would not bring the sides closer together from where they currently stand.
“Clear philosophical differences with the district have prevented us from reaching an agreement. In its response to the state, DPS doubled down on its philosophy that teacher salary largely based on shifting, unpredictable bonuses and incentives is the way to go. We disagree,” Roman said in a statement. “Our members believe a fair, reliable and transparent salary schedule with achievable standards is the only solution that will stop the massive flight of good teachers from Denver classrooms to other districts with normal salary schedules. We’re tired of trudging along in compensation experiments that are not working. We need a change now and state intervention won’t make that happen; only DPS can make that happen.”
Monday would have been the first day that union teachers could have gone on strike, according to their notice to the state. But after DPS submitted its request for intervention to the CDLE last Wednesday, the DCTA had 10 days to respond and said teachers would not strike during that period.
Several Denver schools saw student walkouts Monday in support of teachers who voted to strike.
Now that the DCTA has responded, the state has an unlimited amount of time to consider whether it will take jurisdiction over the dispute, though guidelines say the CDLE will try to make that determination within the next 14 days.
Should the department do so, some of the options to continue negotiations include mediation, arbitration and conciliation, the CDLE said. But the state is not allowed to impose an agreement between the two parties. If the CDLE decides to intervene, it is allowed to prevent the strike for a period of up to 180 days while mediation continues.
Gov. Jared Polis and the CDLE met with both sides last week on the day DPS turned in its request. The district argued in its request that a strike would negatively impact more than 70,000 students in the district, particularly a loss of instructional time, disruptions for students with food and medical needs they only receive at school, and extra financial hardships for parents of students who might have to take time off work in the event of a strike.
Ninety-three percent of union teachers voted to strike over what they say is an unfair pay structure, among other things. After the latest round of negotiations, the sides were still more than $8 million apart.
DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said last week that the district was committed to keeping schools open even if teachers do strike and the CDLE does not intervene. DPS set up a website that details the differences in what the district is asking for and what the union has requested, and to also provide resources for families to help them plan for a strike.