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DENVER – Public school teachers in Denver want a raise and a change in the way the district determines their pay.
On Wednesday, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association contract with the Denver Public Schools expired after a full day of negotiations failed to come up with a new agreement.
However, Thursday's talks produced an extension of the current performance-based compensation system until January 18, 2019.
DCTA said it is trying to help get teacher’s raises because some teachers can’t even afford to live where they work.
“I recently decided to actually move in with my parent,s because I realize that there was no way I was going to be able to move forward in life on my teacher salary,” said Kevlyn Walsh, who is in her second-year teaching at East High School.
According to DCTA, the base pay for a first-year teacher (without a master's degree) is about $41,000 a year.
According to the Department of Numbers, the median income for Denver is around $71,000 a year.
“We’re ranked 46th in the country for teacher compensation,” said Cory Kern with DCTA. “We’re not as bad as West Virginia, who is 48th, but we’re not great.”
Kern along with DCTA has been advocating for teacher raises all week.
“We’re proposing the teacher starting salary go from $41,000 a year, to $45,000 a year by January 2019,” Kern said.
DCTA's victory on Thursday comes after exhausting negotiations with DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg. The goal was to extend current compensation terms and adopt a new salary system, but Boasberg told them "no."
“One of the things Tom told us when they did that was that it didn’t matter what was going to happen with general funds,” Kern said. “And not another dime was going to go into teacher compensation.”
Boasberg has a different perspective.
“We couldn’t agree more with our teachers,” Boasberg said. “Last August we reached a five-year contract with our teachers, and that contract had the largest increase — 5.6 percent in salary.”
Boasberg said that teachers in DPS have the highest average salary in the Denver area, but as for the country it’s a different story.
“Right now, we as a state rank among the bottom in the k-12 funding,” Boasberg said. “That has enormous negative consequences on everything from class sizes to teacher’s salary. We as a state need to invest more in education.”
As for how to get this funding, it could come down to the taxpayer.
“We need to increase funding for the state of Colorado,” Kern said. “We need to find more money to get into schools. There’s a ballot initiative in November that folks will be able to vote on.”
The $1.4 billion measure would change Colorado's flat income tax into a graduated system.
“Over 95 percent of superintendents across the state have a common proposal in school funding that would increase Colorado’s investment in education that goes to the legislature next month,” Boasberg said. “Hopefully that will get approved.”