Denver, Jeffco school districts, teachers negotiating pay and other benefits

Two of the state’s largest school districts — Jeffco Public Schools and Denver Public Schools — are negotiating contracts with their respective teachers unions this week, just ahead of the start of the 2022-23 academic year.

After reaching an impasse earlier this year, Jeffco Public Schools and its teachers union will enter into mediation Wednesday as the two sides try to reach an agreement over compensation and planning time.

The last time the two parties met was in May, when they failed to come to an agreement on several issues. The union is asking the district to agree to a new salary schedule and for teachers to be given more planning time to implement new curriculum, according to the news release from the Jefferson County Education Association.

Teachers, librarians and other educators won’t know what salary they will make during the upcoming school year until an agreement is reached, said Brooke Williams, president of the Jefferson County Education Association.

“We are seeing educators leave” because they are struggling with the rising cost of living, she said.

K-12 schools faced widespread staffing shortages last year, meaning teachers had less time for planning lessons as they had to cover other classrooms and take on other roles.

DPS and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association began contract negotiations Tuesday, and expect talks will continue Wednesday, according to a news release.

“Negotiations will be centered around school consolidations, paid family leave and attracting and retaining diverse and high-quality educators in DPS,” the teachers union said in a news release.

DPS recently agreed to raise the minimum wage for paraprofessionals from $15.87 per hour to $20 per hour. The district also plans to increase the minimum wage for all employees to $20 per hour by the 2024-25 school year.

Members of the Denver teachers union went on strike in 2019 for the first time in 25 years. The three-day walkout ended with DPS agreeing to put forward an additional $23.1 million toward teacher compensation and set a new salary schedule for teachers that started at $45,800 a year and topped out at $100,000 annually.

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