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Striking teachers in Denver gather for a rally.

Teachers union begins strike in Denver district

The district and the union have been negotiating for 15 months, but have not reached an agreement.

Teachers at Denver’s public schools have begun a strike Monday after 11th-hour contract talks with district leaders fell apart over the weekend.

The Denver Post reports that the walkout is the district's first teachers strike in 25 years and follows 15 months of negotiations over teacher wages. The district has more than 4,300 teachers and more than 92,000 students.

“We felt like we had to use the last tool in our tool chest to get them to listen,” says Rob Gould, lead negotiator for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association. “…We think it’s important that [the district] sees and knows and understands what it’s like not to have teachers in the classroom.

Denver Public Schools officials say that all of the district’s schools will be open Monday; substitute teachers and personnel from the district’s central office will be staffing classrooms.

Ahead of Monday’s strike, the district hired 300 new substitute teachers in addition to its 1,200-person active roster of subs, and 1,400 employees from the central office were told they will be required to help fill in the gaps at schools.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association last month voted to authorize a strike after negotiations with the district failed to secure a new contract. At the time, the two sides were about $8 million apart in their compensation proposals.

Once the union authorized a strike, district officials formally asked Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to intervene, but he declined.

Once Polis made his decision last week, union officials said the strike would begin on Monday. Negotiators met on Friday night and much of Saturday afternoon. Union representatives rejected the latest district proposal, which called for:

•Eliminating 150 positions in the district’s central office over the next two years, freeing up $20 million
•Putting $22 million in new funds into teachers’ base salaries next year, and a total of $55 million over the next three years
•Increasing teachers’ base salaries by nearly 11 percent next year
•Eliminating performance bonuses for central administration staff
•Increasing annual incentives for teachers working in high-poverty schools to $3,000 from $2,500


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