Denver teachers union ratifies contract deal reached after strike

The Denver teachers union has ratified a new pay agreement reached with the school district after a three-day strike and an all-night bargaining session. The agreement includes pay raises and a continuation of bonuses for educators who work at a set of schools deemed “highest priority,” where many students are living in poverty.

In an online vote conducted by a third party, more than 97 percent of union members voted to ratify the agreement, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association announced Monday.

Only a simple majority was needed to ratify the contract. The new contract affects more than 5,300 teachers and “specialized service providers,” a category that includes nurses, counselors, and others. The union has about 3,800 members. It did not say how many voted on ratification.

The Denver school board must also ratify the contract before it goes into effect.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association and Denver Public Schools had been negotiating an overhaul to the district’s complicated teacher pay system, called ProComp, for 15 months when the union went on strike starting Feb. 11. Shortly before dawn on what would have been the fourth day of the strike, the two sides reached a tentative agreement.

The agreement will inject an additional $23.1 million into teacher pay and give educators an 11.7 percent raise next year on average, according to the district. It also will pay bonuses and incentives to educators who work in hard-to-fill positions, high-poverty schools, and schools deemed “highest priority.” The bonuses and incentives are a key aspect of ProComp.

The “highest priority” bonus, paid to educators who stay at those schools year over year, was a sticking point in negotiations. The district fought to keep it, while the union wanted to get rid of it and use the money to increase the salaries of all educators. The union compromised after the district agreed to adopt a salary schedule that was closer to what the union had proposed.

If the school board ratifies the contract and it goes into effect, the starting base salary next school year will be $45,800, a 7 percent increase from $42,789 this year. The maximum salary — for educators with 20 years of experience and a doctorate — will be $100,000.