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Praise and education political points: How Colorado is responding to the end of Denver’s teacher strike

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock met with preschool families in 2014 before announcing his support for a tax increase for the Denver Preschool Program.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock met with preschool families in 2014 before announcing his support for a tax increase for the Denver Preschool Program.
Nic Garcia/Chalkbeat

The reactions began as soon as the deal was announced, with a tweet from Gov. Jared Polis expressing relief that the labor dispute between the Denver school district and its teacher union was over.

Polis was among the many Coloradans weighing in about the end of the strike that kept many Denver teachers out of schools for three days this week. Like him, many said they were excited that schools could begin to return to normal, while people on both sides of the dispute claimed political wins. We’ll document the reactions here.

Gov. Jared Polis declined to intervene before the strike, saying that doing so could slow down the path toward a resolution. Here’s his complete statement today:

I am pleased that after months of negotiations, both sides stepped up, worked together, and found a solution that works for our district, our educators, our parents, and most importantly our children.

While it’s unfortunate that this agreement was not reached prior to the strike, today’s results are a testament to Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association’s commitment to working together in the best interest of our children.

Denver’s kids are the biggest winners in today’s agreement, and I think everyone is relieved that the strike is over and students and teachers will be back in school working together to build a brighter future for themselves and our community.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock made the Denver Public Library’s central branch available for bargaining, kept the building open through the night, and sent over food for teachers and district officials. His statement notes the role he played during the strike:

It’s good news that the DCTA and DPS have reached a tentative agreement. I know from the several calls and meetings I undertook with both sides, that it has been challenging to build trust and reach an agreement. Our students are the biggest winners with this deal, and I’m sure they’ll be happy to have their teachers back in their classrooms.

Here’s what Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association teachers union, tweeted this morning:

Colorado Education Association President Amie Baca-Oehlert, head of the state teachers union to which the Denver union belongs, held up Denver teachers as models for the rest of the state.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for our Denver educators for being brave and bold and for standing up for Denver students and our profession. Denver educators didn’t just fight for their students, profession and community. They have led the way for our entire state by bringing to the forefront our students’ need for qualified, committed, and caring educators that can afford to stay in the classroom and live in the communities where they teach.

And people that lobbied to preserve ProComp emphasized that teachers will still get extra money for working in high-poverty schools, something the union had said it wanted to see diminished and, in some cases, eliminated.

From an official at A+ Colorado:

And from Stand for Children Colorado:

Ready Colorado, a conservative education advocacy group, went further, casting the deal as no better for teachers than the one the district offered before the strike. The organization had threatened to file a lawsuit if the agreement deviated from ballot language approved by voters in 2005, and a spokesman said Thursday morning that the organization still needs to review the details. Here’s President Luke Ragland:

We are glad to see that the union caved on the bonuses for teaching in the 30 highest-need schools — which was the biggest sticking point between DPS and the union when the strike began. That is a big win for the neediest kids who will get those essential extra resources. The teachers themselves should be proud — they are getting a 10 percent raise. But unfortunately for the union’s credibility, it’s essentially the same raise they were offered before the strike. Students, teachers, and families were put through an unnecessary week of chaos.

(The district did not put much more money on the table to reach the deal, but it did agree to changes the union wanted in terms of how educators earn raises. The average raise is now 11.7 percent instead of 10 percent, according to the district.)

Union allies are also going all in. The Colorado Working Families Party, which supports progressive Democrats in primaries and has worked alongside Denver Classroom Teachers Association to build community support for the union, said the strike represents momentum toward changing the balance of power on the school board. A majority of the seven-member board has supported a suite of education reform policies. Here’s what deputy director Wendy Howell said:

Colorado Working Families Party was proud to stand with the teachers in this fight. We congratulate them on their victory at the bargaining table which will improve schools, student outcomes, and the profession of teaching in our city.

Along with these steps forward for education, the strike also exposed problems with corporate control of the Denver Board of Public Education. Today, teachers win a fair agreement. In November, we take back our school board.

The strike revealed the incredible appetite and hunger of Denver residents to fix our school system. This action showed the power that educators, parents, and the community command; this is the power that will elect a school board that represents community interests, not corporate ones.

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