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DPS, union reach tentative pay accord

Denver Public Schools administration building at 900 Grant St.
Denver Public Schools administration building at 900 Grant St.

Negotiators for Denver Public Schools and its teachers’ union have reached a tentative two-year agreement that calls for delayed raises in 2010-11 and a pay freeze in 2011-12.

The proposal, disclosed at Thursday’s board meeting, now goes to teachers and the DPS school board for approval.

“This was a difficult agreement on both sides, given the economic conditions,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg and Denver Classroom Teachers Association President Henry Roman in a joint statement, adding they hope to “continue to avoid the layoffs, furlough days and significant class-size increases that other area school districts are facing.”

The agreement also calls for an end to “early-release days” – those unpopular half-days sprinkled throughout the year to provide time for teacher training. They often left parents scrambling for childcare.

Under the terms of the tentative agreement, teachers would receive their traditional pay raises for experience and education, about 2 to 3 percent on average, next school year – but they would not receive them until January. They would not receive those raises the following year. In neither year would teachers receive a cost-of-living increase.

State education funding was cut 6.3 percent for 2010-11 and some state officials say the cuts could be even worse for 2011-12. Teachers in Jefferson County Public Schools, the state’s largest district, begin voting Monday on a tentative pay agreement with terms similar to that announced Thursday in DPS.

An email sent to union members in Denver states the district initially proposed a package that “would have resulted in a compensation cut for teachers.” It included a pay freeze and requiring teachers to pay part of an increase to the state pension fund required by law.

Under the tentative agreement announced Thursday, DPS will pay the pension increase. The district also will continue to offer an annual $504 subsidy toward the purchase of health insurance.

Boasberg told school board members that, if approved, the terms of the agreement will be offered in “a similar package for all of our employees … We’ll come back to you with more details on that.”

Instead of the five “early-release” days, teachers will have two days of training selected by their school leadership teams. A full day of school for students will be added and Boasberg said he hopes to release the calendar before the school year ends next week, even if a special board meeting is required to do so.

Some two-thirds of DPS teachers participate in the district’s performance-pay plan known as ProComp. Its base salary is tied to the traditional salary schedule so a halt on cost-of-living increases affect all teachers. To see how some components of ProComp are affected under the tentative agreement and other details, click here.

Roman, the union president, said the agreement includes a provision that talks be re-opened in the second year if state funding is at least 1.75 percent higher than the district would have received in 2011-12 under Amendment 23, the constitutional amendment that improves funding for K-12 education.

Such a funding increase is now considered unlikely, given the state’s fiscal budget crisis.

District and union negotiators have struggled in recent years to reach a tentative agreement before school lets out for summer.

“This is the first time I’m aware of in two decades that we’ve been able to come to an agreement before the end of the school year,” Boasberg said, “and tell our teachers what their compensation will be in the fall, when they come back.”

Union members will begin voting today in their schools. Voting closes Thursday, May 27.

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