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DPS teachers voting on tentative agreement

Denver Public Schools teachers on Wednesday began voting on a tentative contract agreement that includes a 2.5 percent cost-of-living raise and assurances that will rise to 4.15 percent if state lawmakers release emergency reserve funds in January.

Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said voting will continue through Sept. 25. If union members ratify the agreement, it would go before the Denver school board for final approval.

Salary increases would be retroactive to Sept. 1. Benefits also would increase by 2.5 percent, which would be retroactive to July 1; benefits are paid on a fiscal year, rather than a school year, term.

A three-year agreement approved by Denver teachers after contentious talks last year called for a 4.15 percent raise this year, based on the consumer price index, which was 3.9 percent, plus .25 percent. But DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg asked Roman and other DCTA leaders to re-open talks about salary and benefits in light of the state’s fiscal crisis.

State lawmakers approved an increase in school funding for 2009-2010 of 4.9 percent. But they then froze 1.9 percent of those dollars until Jan. 29, when they’re expected to re-assess the state’s economic status and determine whether they can release those funds.

In DPS, that 1.9 percent adds up to $10.4 million.

Roman said the district initially proposed a 2.25 percent raise, which was negotiated up to 2.5 percent. He said the tentative agreement responds to a key concern of members – that the raise come in salary base-building dollars.

DPS leaders also have given assurances that, if the state releases the $10.4 million, the money will fund an additional 1.65 percent – for a total raise of 4.15 percent. That additional 1.65 percent would become permanent if there are no more state funding cuts for 2010-11, which likely won’t be known until May, Roman said.

Other pieces of the agreement include collaborative planning between the union and district for new teacher orientation, training for teachers to serve on school leadership teams and adding the term “domestic partner” to sick leave benefits for teachers.

Click here to see the joint announcement from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools.

Click here to see Ed News‘ recent story on Districts, unions scrambling to settle contracts.