Teachers in Colorado’s largest school district are preparing to strike on Monday after Gov. Jared Polis announced he would not intervene in a pay dispute between the Denver school district and the teachers union.
Even before Polis revealed his decision publicly Wednesday, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association tweeted: “February 11th, We strike for our students.”
Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova reiterated that the district will keep as many schools open as possible in the event of a strike, but said about 5,000 preschool students, the majority of them from low-income families, would have to stay home because it would be harder to find substitute teachers due to stricter state regulations on preschool.
This would be the first strike by Denver teachers in 25 years. It comes amid a national wave of teacher activism that has seen educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and most recently Los Angeles walk off the job to demand higher wages and better working conditions.
In Denver, teachers are also driven by pent-up frustration with a pay-for-performance system they feel has failed to deliver on its promises, as well as with the broad swath of education reform policies that system represents.
But before teachers take to the picket lines, the two sides are tentatively scheduled to return to the bargaining table Friday to see if there is any way to bridge what Polis cast as “small, limited differences.” Legally, Denver teachers could have started their strike Thursday, but by announcing a Monday start date, the union leaves room for more negotiations, which Polis said represents an “11th-hour opportunity” to reach a deal.
“The differences between the two sides are minor, and they will be bridged in a contract,” Polis said, standing between two white boards that laid out the areas of consensus and dispute in the district and union proposals. “The question is, can that contract be delivered before a strike?”