Nearly a decade ago, voters approved a $25 million annual property tax increase for Denver Public Schools to fund performance and retention pay for teachers who help students learn.

But now, 90 percent of eligible DPS teachers are receiving the additional compensation, according to a database obtained by Watchdog.org under state open records laws. And that’s in a district where this year 22 percent of teachers were deemed as not achieving the “effective” teaching standard, DPS data shows.

Critics say the ProComp tax increase was always about collecting more tax revenue for the district than rewarding teachers who truly help students.

“It was sold to teachers in a different way than it was sold to the public,” said Mark Barlock, a former DPS teacher who led the fight against ProComp in 2005 and now teaches outside the district. “Teachers were told, ‘You understand this is how to get more taxpayer money for DPS, and we decide how to use the money we get.’”

But Shayne Spalten, DPS chief of human resources, said the ballot measure was always designed to reward high-performing teachers and attract teachers to low-performing schools. There are several categories that qualify teachers for ProComp payments, and that’s why nearly all DPS teachers receive some portion of the tax increase money.

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