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DPS teachers ok contract, other districts close

Denver teachers have ratified a contract agreement giving them a cost-of-living increase of 2.5 percent for this school year, union leaders announced Monday.

At least two other large Colorado districts also are wrapping up talks – Pueblo City Schools on Monday announced a tentative settlement, subject to the approval of teachers and school board members. Douglas County’s is expected to announce an agreement before the week is out.

In Greeley, teachers’ union leaders are reviewing the district’s latest offer, with an agreement to respond by Oct. 6. In St. Vrain Valley, the district and union are in the midst of an independent fact-finding review.

In Boulder Valley, the impasse continues. District spokesman Briggs Gamblin said the district has renewed its call for fact-finding and union leaders are asking “clarifying questions” about what that would entail.

Click here to see the Boulder district’s latest offer and here for the Boulder teachers’ union perspective.

Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, said 92 percent of teachers who voted supported the negotiated agreement with Denver Public Schools.

About 3,000 of Denver’s 4,100 public school teachers are DCTA members; 1,744 voted in schools during the past two weeks.

The increase is actually less than DPS teachers were expecting under a three-year contract bargained last fall. That agreement called for a raise equal to the consumer price index, or 3.9 percent, plus .25 percent.

But DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg asked to re-negotiate the pay portion of the contract in light of the state’s fiscal crisis.

“One of the realities we have to face is the economic conditions and the economic picture we’re getting,” Roman said.

Denver school board members already approved the agreement, subject to teachers’ ratification so “it’s a done deal,” he said.

The cost-of-living increase is retroactive to Sept. 1.

Also included in the agreement is a 2.5 percent increase in medical benefits.

DPS, along with other Colorado school districts, was required by state lawmakers to place 1.9 percent of their state funding this year in an emergency reserve account. In January, they’ll decide whether to “unfreeze” that money – or withhold it permanently.

It appears increasingly unlikely that districts will get to use that money, based on bleak state revenue forecasts.

But if that money, or $10.4 million for DPS, is freed, then Denver teachers will see an additional 1.65 percent bonus.

And if the state does not require additional cuts for 2010-11, according to the agreement, that extra 1.65 percent becomes a permanent raise.

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.

Nancy Mitchell can be reached at nmitchell@pebc.org or 303-478-4573.

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