Denver teachers, school officials 'hopeful' a deal is near

The union representing striking Denver teachers and school officials said they were hopeful they can reach a settlement to end a three-day walkout. Negotiations resumed Wednesday following talks that lasted into the night on Tuesday.

"We exchanged proposals that are moving us closer and are hopeful that we will get to an agreement soon," according to a statement issued by union president Henry Roman and superintendent Susana Cordova.

Both sides need a "little bit more time" to resolve their differences.

Negotiations focused on how to change a pay system to more closely resemble those in other districts in allowing teachers to more easily advance in pay based on experience, education and training. Unlike recent sessions, there was more discussion and back-and-forth. However, both sides have not yet tackled a main sticking point — reducing bonus pay in order to put more money into teachers' base pay.

The district gives bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 a year to teachers who work in schools with students from low-income families, in schools that are designated high priority or in positions that are considered hard to staff, such as special education or speech language pathology.

The union is pushing to lower or eliminate some of those bonuses to free up more money that would be added to overall teacher pay. The sticking point on bonuses is how much extra to pay teachers who work in high-poverty and high-priority, which the district sees as a way to help improve the academic performance of poor and minority students

Teachers say the reliance on bonuses leads to high turnover, which they say hurts students, and that spending money on smaller class sizes and adding support staff, like counselors, is the best way to help disadvantaged students.

The district has proposed raising starting teacher pay from $43,255 to $45,500 a year. That's $300 a year less than the union's proposal, which would add $50 million a year to teacher base pay, according to union officials.

Reports from the school district indicate 58 percent of teachers did not report to work on Tuesday, slightly more than on the first day of the strike Monday.

The walkout came about a year after West Virginia teachers launched the national "Red4Ed" movement with a nine-day strike in which they won 5 percent pay raises. Most recently, Los Angeles teachers held a six-day strike last month.

There are 71,000 students in district-run schools. Another 21,000 are enrolled in charter schools unaffected by the strike.


Associated Press writers P. Solomon Banda and James Anderson in Denver contributed to this report.