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Denver Teachers Vote to Authorize First Strike in 25 Years



As teachers in Los Angeles head back to classrooms today, their counterparts in Denver are preparing to head to the picket lines. 

On Tuesday night, 93 percent of union members voted to authorize a strike over pay. (The Denver Classroom Teachers Association did not release the number of members who cast a ballot.) This would be the first strike in Colorado's biggest district in 25 years.

(Updated 1/24) On Wednesday, Denver district officials asked the state to intervene. The state Department of Labor and Employment has not yet decided whether to get involved—but the process has delayed the start of the strike, which had been planned for Monday. If the department does get involved and try to intervene, it would put the strike on hold for as much as 180 days—until July.

The Denver school district and the teachers' union have been unable to reach an agreement over what teachers' salary schedules should look like. The district's plan would give teachers a higher starting salary, with fewer opportunities to earn raises (but would give bonuses to teachers working in high-poverty or hard-to-fill positions). The union has proposed a plan that would give teachers more opportunities to earn raises as they complete professional-development courses and continuing-education credits. 

"Educators have told us that they want an increase in base salaries and a decrease in unpredictable bonus pay," said Rob Gould, the DCTA's lead negotiator, at a press conference. "Over the past few years, teachers have seen decreases within their take-home pay and have had to decide on whether they would leave Denver's kids in order to earn $7,000 to $13,000 more in base pay in neighboring districts."

Denver district officials have pledged to keep schools open during a strike. Just like in Los Angeles, the schools would mainly be staffed by substitutes and administrators. Superintendent Susana Cordova told the Denver Post that the district would also try to recruit furloughed federal workers to teach during a strike. 

Still, Cordova—who was named an Education Week Leader to Learn From last year—hopes to avert a strike through state intervention. It's illegal for a union to strike while the state is working to resolve issues, the district has said. 

Image: A teacher wears a button on a union shirt on Jan. 17. —David Zalubowski/AP

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