Teaching Profession

Denver Union Unrest May Cloud Future of Pay Plan

By Bess Keller — April 12, 2005 3 min read

A breakdown in contract negotiations between the Denver school district and its main teachers’ union may cloud the future of a widely watched plan for revamping how teachers there are paid.

Contract talks stalled last month, and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association gave notice to the state that it might wind up considering a strike. If mediation scheduled for this week fails, teachers could be asked to vote on the school board’s last, best offer, which is likely to be unpopular.

Meanwhile, union and district officials have announced the first concrete details of the proposed pay plan, called ProComp, which would stop rewarding teachers for years on the job and start recognizing their classroom skills and accomplishments.

And at the same time, city and district leaders are gearing up a campaign to persuade Denver voters this coming November to raise their property taxes by some $25 million a year to support the new system, which would kick in over the next few years for those teachers who chose it.

“If there’s unrest about our current salary system, that makes it tougher” to win the election, said Brad Jupp, a union activist who has helped lead the pay initiative since its start more than six years ago.

wissinkb04132005
wartgowj04132005

Mr. Jupp cited another good reason to reach a settlement on the contract, which is up in August, before the end of the school year: Both Superintendent Jerry Wartgow and union President Becky Wissink are stepping down at that time after four years each in their jobs.

Budget Troubles

Denver teachers have grown increasingly unhappy with their lot over the past three years as the 70,000-student district has struggled with a series of budget shortfalls brought on in part by flattened enrollment and state belt-tightening.

Last year, the district and the 3,000-member union, an affiliate of the National Education Association, agreed on a wage settlement that cut substitute teachers’ daily pay from $122 to $82 to help pay for teachers’ health benefits and a 1 percent cost-of-living increase. Since then, the district has faced a shortage of substitutes.

This year, union negotiators demanded that teachers again be able to climb the longevity steps of the salary scale after a two-year freeze. Prodded by a task force that examined Denver’s ranking for teacher compensation in the metropolitan area, district negotiators have agreed. But the two sides still differ over district officials’ proposed cost-of-living raise of one-tenth of 1 percent in the first year of the three-year contract.

Union leaders are also seeking more say over teachers’ time and instructional decisions. “I think teachers have sucked it up for the last couple of years,” said Ms. Wissink, the union president. “It’s time we got something, but if it’s not there [in money terms], give us language in the contract” concerning time and teaching.

Teachers have been rattled by the changes they have had to absorb recently, including new curricula, school closings, staff cuts, and school redesigns, she said. But union endorsement of the new pay plan—won in a vote a year ago—is not subject to change, Ms. Wissink said. Both candidates for the president’s job are supporters of ProComp, if to different degrees.

The Denver framework provides teachers with several ways to earn raises, including student academic growth as measured by test scores, satisfactory evaluations of their classroom work, and adding to their own professional education. (“Teacher Vote on Merit Pay Down to Wire,” March 17, 2004.)

Criteria for Bonuses

Last month, union and district representatives announced the specifics of the pay plan that would give $989 bonuses annually for working in “hard to serve” schools or taking jobs in “hard to staff” fields.

More than 25 of Denver’s 150 schools were designated hard-to-serve for the coming school year, according to a formula that takes into account what proportions of students come from poor families, need special education, and speak English as a second language, plus crime rates in the neighborhoods that send children to the schools.

Five fields will count in the 2005-06 school year as hard-to-staff, based on the district’s high turnover and low number of applicants in those specialities: English-language-acquisition/Spanish, middle school mathematics, assignment to special education schools, speech pathology, and psychology.

If voters approve funding for the plan in November, teachers would be paid the bonus in the 2005-06 school year.

“Teachers seeking employment for the next school year will be able to identify the market incentives,’’ said Andre Pettigrew, an assistant superintendent for the district. “It’s an important milestone.”

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and wellbeing during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Marketing Coordinator
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Sr Project Manager, Marketing (Temporary)
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

Teaching Profession Q&A Nation's Top Teachers Discuss the Post-Pandemic Future of the Profession
Despite the difficulties this school year brought, the four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year award say they're hopeful.
11 min read
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
National Teacher of the Year Finalists (clockwise from top left): Alejandro Diasgranados, Juliana Urtubey, John Arthur, Maureen Stover
Courtesy of CCSSO
Teaching Profession Teachers Are Stressed Out, and It's Causing Some to Quit
Stress, more so than low pay, is the main reason public school teachers quit. And COVID-19 has increased the pressure.
7 min read
Image of exit doors.
pavel_balanenko/iStock/Getty
Teaching Profession Opinion Should Teachers Be Prioritized for the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Not all states are moving teachers to the front of the vaccination line. Researchers discuss the implications for in-person learning.
6 min read
Teacher Lizbeth Osuna from Cooper Elementary receives the Moderna vaccine at a CPS vaccination site at Roberto Clemente High School in Chicago, Ill., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Chicago public school teacher Lizbeth Osuna receives the COVID-19 vaccine at a school vaccination site last week.
Anthony Vazquez/Chicago Sun-Times via AP
Teaching Profession Chicago Teachers Approve School Reopening Plan: ‘We Got What We Were Able to Take’
Chicago Teachers Union members have voted in favor of a reopening deal, signaling that in-person classes can resume Thursday as planned.
Hannah Leone & Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas
4 min read
Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Chicago on Feb. 7, 2021. The Chicago Teachers Union has approved a deal with the nation’s third-largest school district to get students back to class during the coronavirus pandemic, union officials announced early Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson speaks during a news conference at City Hall in Chicago on Feb. 7. The Chicago Teachers Union has approved a deal with the nation’s third-largest school district to get students back to class during the coronavirus pandemic.
Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune via AP