Denver Teacher Strike


For the first time in 25 years, thousands of educators across the Denver Public School (DPS) system left their classrooms on Feb. 11 to demand higher wages.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) broke off negotiations on Feb. 9 after spending 15 months negotiating with DPS over wages and an incentive pay structure.

According to the Denver Post, the union proposed eliminating 150 positions in the district’s central office over the next two years. This would put $22 million in additional funds into teachers’ base salaries next year, and a total of $55 million over the next three years, which includes teachers’ base salary increase of 11 percent next year. This eliminates performance bonuses for central administration staff.

A DPS representative asked Gov. Jared Polis to intervene in the strike. However, the governor declined to step in, something that could have further delayed a strike by up to 180 days.

At least 160 schools were open as half the district’s teachers walked out. Some students who attended class reported disorder in their schools and dissatisfaction with the quality of work.

East High School was one of the schools that remained open. Students there sent a video to the Denver Post showing them playing music and chanting through hallways before walking out.

"Certainly at our high schools, we have students that are very engaged, very active in expressing their opinions” said Susan Cordova, a superintendent of the Denver Public School District.

According to district officials, DPS schools received an attendance of 75 percent of students on Monday Feb. 11th. Approximately 400 substitutes were enlisted and 1,400 central-office staff were placed in city classrooms.

The four-day-long strike came to an end on Feb. 14th. The DPS and DCTA reached an agreement of an 11.7 percent pay raise for school staff, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers. This contains the salary of teachers' educational attainment, such as a teacher who has a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and have at least a positive evaluations.

They both agreed on a $2,000 incentive for educators who work in high-poverty schools, this includes educators who work in hard-to-fill positions, such as special education or secondary math, and a $3,000 retention bonus for educators who return year after year to the 30 highest-priority schools.

Rob Gould, the union’s lead negotiator told reporters, “This is a victory for Denver kids and their parents and our teachers…Educators in Denver Public Schools now have a fair, predictable, transparent salary schedule. We’re happy to get back to work.”

In 2018, school strikes began in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, North Carolina and last month in Los Angeles.

Denver Public Schools is the largest public school system in the state of Colorado, with 162 schools, 91,000 students and 6,700 teachers. As Denver made their agreements, another strike may happen in Oakland, CA on Feb. 21.