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Denver teachers union rejects latest offer from school district

Thursday night the teachers union rejected an offer from the school district.

DENVER — For the latest updates in the state's involvement in the DPS teacher strike, click or tap here.

Following negotiations Thursday evening, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association rejected the latest offer from the Denver Public School District.

The district and union bargaining members met at 5 p.m. Thursday at the DPS Acoma Campus. During negotiations, the Denver Public School District proposed adding $3 million to the deal during the 2020-2021 school year by eliminating 100 positions in the central office.  DPS said its new proposal would have committed an estimated $50 million in teacher increases over three years. 

The teachers union responded by calling the new negotiations a "waste of time." 

"We came to meet with the district in good faith," said Union Lead Negotiator, Rob Gould in a video posted on Facebook. "They answered us with their usual empty DPS promises. They came back with the same proposal. The same proposal that we rejected before the strike vote. The salary schedule was the same."

In a statement Thursday night, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association also said that the district failed to offer any new ideas for creating a fair, competitive salary schedule.

In response, the district said it is willing to discuss changes to the structure of the system but wasn't given the opportunity. In a statement Thursday evening, the district said the union did not engage in discussions and chose to leave negotiations at 6:45 p.m. even though they were scheduled to continue until 8 p.m.

"We were really hopeful to be able to have conversations about that last night," Superintendent Susana Cordova said Friday morning. "That's the whole purpose of bargaining is to be able to give ideas, share proposals, trade back and forth. We started with a proposal that addressed some of the concerns we heard about money. We have other ideas that we want to talk about in terms of structure. That can only happen if we're actually bargaining. It's really challenging if we're not actually having conversations."

At this time there are no new negotiations scheduled. This latest round of negotiations came as union members wait to find out if they can go on strike.

The Denver teachers strike was set to begin Monday morning. Teachers were planning to walk out after the Denver Classroom Teachers Association notified the district it was considering a strike on Jan. 8 -- and then voted a little over a week later to do just that. 

But per guidelines, Denver Public Schools can petition the state's Department of Labor and Employment to intervene and block a strike. Per the union, the district did just that last Wednesday, giving the union 10 days to respond.

They did Monday by asking the labor department to stay out of the dispute and allow teachers to strike. The union argued they and DPS are the only ones that can fix the disagreement between them, and that the labor department's intervention was unnecessary.

The labor department now has 14 days to decide whether or not to intervene and stop the strike. In the meantime, the union said its teachers cannot strike and must report for work until they're told otherwise.

It's unclear if or when a strike will happen with Denver schoolteachers now that the state is legally involved in the process. In the meantime, all DPS schools will remain open and operating, according to the district. 

The law allows the state to intervene and block a strike if both the school district and the union want help. That doesn’t apply in this case because the teachers union told the state on Jan. 8 that it doesn't want intervention.

The law also allows the state to block a strike if the head of the state's labor department decides it would be in the public’s interest, but nothing in state statute (CRS 8-1-125) says anything about delaying a strike to give the state time to decide whether to intervene.

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