DENVER — This week Four Denver Public Schools teachers shared their thoughts on the strike.
The district and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, a union, failed to reach a deal last Friday. Tuesday night, after several days of voting, the union says teachers voted "overwhelmingly" to strike.
Among the sticking points are base salaries. DPS is offering $26.5 million in raises – something Superintendent Susana Cordova said averages out to around 10 percent per teacher. But the union is asking for an additional $8 million – which they say is just 1 percent of the district’s budget.
Previously, Cordova said she would ask the state to intervene if the teachers voted to strike.
But after two years of negotiations, the state may not have any reason to step in. And if the state doesn’t get involved, teachers could start walking the picket line by Jan. 28.
We spoke with four teachers in the district earlier in the week before the results of the vote were announced. They share their perspectives below.
'I'm on the fence'
Diego Rodriguez, a Spanish teacher at Denver Center for International Studies, is in Colorado on an H1B work visa.
The 20-year teacher from Colombia said worker strikes are common, but it wasn't something he expected to encounter one week after starting at the school.
"They told me, 'Hey there’s going to be a strike. We’re going to be voting," Rodriguez said. "I didn’t really know what was going on."
Rodriguez added that he knows teachers deserve more, but "I do know that these kids who are here do need me."
"They were without a Spanish teacher for three months, so I don’t want them to be absent for another week for them, and I don’t want them to think they’re losing a teacher again."
'It weighs heavily on you'
Jeff Krummel, a former engineer who is now a math teacher in his first year at Denver Center for International Studies, said the strike weighs heavily on him.
"Short term there’s going to be pain for students and us as teachers, but long-term we’re fighting for our students that lose when teachers move to other districts when we can attract the best teachers," Krummel said.
“For me, it was a decision to stand up for the future of our students and our profession," he added.
'I don’t believe it is the appropriate time to strike'
Felicia Manzanares, a third-year principal at Cheltenham Elementary School and former 11-year teacher, said she doesn't want to see teachers strike.
Cheltenham Elementary School is a Title I school, meaning it receives federal resources that are allocated based upon the poverty rates of students enrolled in schools and districts. Those resources are designed to help ensure that all children meet challenging state academic standards.
"I look...through the lens of both a principal, because I have a school to run for children, and I also have a school to run for teachers to feel that they are being compensated for the work they do," Manzanares said.
'There is a big picture'
Gerardo Munoz, a social studies teacher at Denver Center for International Studies, is a 20-year veteran teacher who said he has been a mentor for younger teachers who are on the fence about the strike.
"There are a lot of teachers with particular situations that concern them," he said.
Munoz said he wants teachers to focus on the big picture.
“If older me could talk to younger me, older me would say there is a big picture," he said. "What I’ve witnessed over a period of years is so much attrition, losing young teachers who are talented and enthusiastic and energetic and full of great new resources and insight for us older teachers."
The last Denver teacher strike was in the fall of 1994.
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