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Denver Public Schools recruits workers affected by government shutdown as substitutes ahead of potential strike

Superintendent Susana Cordova said the district has been attending job fair-like events to recruit furloughed workers "looking to pick up some extra cash."

DENVER — If Denver teachers were to head to the picket lines next week, the district would like to see some furloughed federal workers in the classroom.

That's according to DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova, who on Monday said the district has already been to several job fair-like events following the government shutdown.

“We’ve got a whole group of federal employees who’ve been furloughed who are not working or not getting paid,” she said. “So we have attended some of the work events where folks are looking to pick up extra cash.”

The recruitment comes as Denver teachers vote on whether to strike over failed negotiations concerning their base pay and incentives. The district has offered teachers more than $20 million in additional pay as part of the negotiation, but the teachers union rejected that offer, seeking about $8 million more.

RELATED: DPS superintendent says substitute teachers will be getting paid double if teachers strike

Some union members voted on a potential strike in private sessions Saturday. The remainder of union members will on Tuesday. The union is expected to announce the decision after the final vote.

RELATED: DPS, teachers union fail to reach deal, members to vote on potential strike Saturday

If the union votes in favor of a strike, and the state’s labor department don’t intervene, teachers would be allowed to strike starting Monday, Jan. 28.

The district has promised parents and students to keep schools open during a strike, staffing classrooms with substitute teachers.

RELATED: Mom worries about potential strike's impact on her kids

To do it, the district plans to use an existing pool of 1,200 substitutes and recruit others, as well as expedite the licensure and interview process.

“We’re offering our substitutes double our daily rate for the people who sub with us on a general basis,” Cordova said.

How to become a substitute teacher in Denver Public Schools

To become a substitute, or guest teacher in Denver Public Schools, a candidate must have a bachelor’s degree and apply for a license from the Colorado Department of Education.

According to the district, candidates must have a 3-year substitute authorization, Initial or Professional License or a 5-year substitute authorization from CDE.

Denver Public Schools then requires fingerprinting and a background check from potential candidates. With the strike looming, the district is offering to cover the cost of fingerprinting and background checks and will reimburse potential candidates for the cost of their licensing.

The district is also offering to pay more for substitutes during a strike.  Daily substitutes could make $212 each day, up from the usual rate of $106.80. Retired teachers and some of the district’s more frequent subs could be eligible for $250 each day during a strike.

DPS strike could draw substitute resources away from other districts

Many districts already struggle to fill their classrooms with substitute teachers.

“We have a really strong economy right now and it’s easy to get a job,” Cordova said. “Subbing probably isn’t going to be the job that someone looking for full employment would go to first.”

A strike inside DPS could draw substitute resources away from other districts.

“With an already limited substitute teacher pool in Colorado, we may see an impact,” Paula Hans, spokeswoman for Douglas County Schools, said in a statement. “Our school leaders and staff are committed to as minimal a disruption as possible in DCSD.”

Other major school districts in the metro area hadn’t responded to a request for comment before this story was published.

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