Teacher salaries often don’t meet cost of living
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association started negotiations with the district about a new pay structure for teachers more than a year ago. These talks came to a head on Feb. 11, when roughly 56 percent of the district’s teachers took to the picket lines in protest of the poor offers by the district. This was the first time that teachers went on strike in Denver in 25 years.
CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development quickly joined the ranks of those who stood behind teachers demanding a better wage. Julia Cummings, Marketing Director for the School of Education & Human Development, said, “Our alumni are skilled and compassionate educators and leaders who deserve to earn living wages and to be appreciated for the professional skills and knowledge they bring to classrooms every day.”
While there have also been strikes in other cities around the country, like Los Angeles, the situation is particularly pronounced in Colorado. The National Education Association ranked Colorado 31st for states’ average salary for instructional staff for 2017, 15 percent below the national average salary. Additionally, the cost of living in Denver increased 23 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to Forbes.
“I think there are many things I’ve gone without because of my compensation as a DPS teacher,” Pablo Benitez, a history teacher at Stedman Elementary, said on the DCTA website. “I have been employed by DPS for six years and half of those years I opted out of insurance so I could receive the additional monetary payment of roughly $425 per month.”
When the strike started, students were affected by either no one in their classrooms or the presence of unqualified DPS staff standing in for the teachers due to a lack of substitutes to cover the entire district.
Some students supported their teachers who were striking, as one student told Westword, “At the moment, I feel that going to school is useless, and it will feel that way until I get my teachers back. The district needs to know how largely this is affecting all DPS schools and give up their selfish ways. We will not go down without a fight!”
It only took DPS three days to come to a compromise with the DCTA on teachers’ pay. The morning of Feb. 14 it was announced that Denver teachers would see an 11 percent raise in pay along with a new bonus system that makes sense after an all-night bargaining session. Despite this being a tentative agreement, there doesn’t appear to be another strike in Denver on the horizon.
Cummings believes prospective classroom teachers studying at CU Denver can learn from witnessing the teachers’ strike, stating, “We view this as a real-life opportunity for our students to practice the disposition expected of teachers to remain calm, thoughtful, and flexible in the face of ambiguity.”