DENVER — Time is running out for Denver Public Schools to reach an agreement with teachers on a new contract before a potential strike vote this weekend.
Leaders with DPS met with members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association Wednesday afternoon.
Denver Public Schools Superintendent Susana Cordova said Wednesday that both sides are still working on reaching an agreement on teacher pay.
The district is proposing a $334 million compensation package that would establish an average base salary of $62,529. DPS promises to pay the agreed amount even if the yearly revenue comes in below their projections.
"That is DPS math, I would say," Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said Thursday morning. "What we're offering is to simplify the system, and we offer a salary schedule that is easy to understand for educators and anyone."
"We're not completely in agreement on how much money to put into our salary table," Cordova said Wednesday. "We're making big cuts at the central office to help fund this."
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association is also asking for a predictable income for educators.
"Right now the way that we're paid is through ProComp, and ProComp is a system largely comprised of one-time incentives that are mostly determined by factors outside of the teachers' control," said Roman. "This means our educators have to largely depend on variable pay, variable pay that changes over time and that's one of the main reasons why teachers and educators are leaving Denver."
"There's a lot that we actually agree on. So our teachers have said that they need more money. We completely agree," Cordova said. "We've done everything that we can to invest in base salaries for our teachers. Our old system was complicated. We've put forth a simpler proposal. Our new proposal has invested $23 million additional dollars, that's on top of a $45 million agreement that we reached in 2017."
Cordova also said there will not be a strike in the next week if there is no deal. She said the earliest would be Jan. 28, and several things would have to happen before teachers walked off the job.
"We have two full days of negotiations left. I've been joking there are 24 hours in a day, so there's a lot of time left," Cordova said. "Our goal is 100-percent to get to an agreement. We believe that we've put a really compelling proposal on the table and we can actually get to an agreement."
The next negotiating session with Denver Classroom Teachers Association will take place Thursday, with another scheduled for Friday.
"Our hope is that the district comes today (Thursday) with a proposal that shows that they have been listening to us, and our hope is to keep working until the last minute on the last day to figure this out," Roman said.
Cordova, a former DPS teacher, said she was on the other side back in 1994 when Denver teachers went on strike and remembers how challenging it was for her at that time.
"My second year teaching we were in a very similar position and I remember how challenging it was," Cordova said. "I remember I was second year - I didn't have a lot of money in the bank, I was really nervous about what was going to happen.
"Our teachers are the most critical people that we have in our district," Cordova said. "I'm so invested in getting to an agreement because I know it's in the best interest of everyone."
When asked about the possible strike on Wednesday, Gov. Jared Polis was careful not to take sides.
"We want to get both sides to work together to solve this issue, and I think they have a few more days of negotiations before there is any process that involves the state," Polis said.