Denver Public Schools to increase minimum wage with pension savings

PHOTO: Denver Public Schools
Gov. John Hickenlooper, surrounded by students from DCIS Montbello and NCAS - Noel Community Arts School, signs a bill changing Denver Public Schools' PERA contributions.

Denver Public Schools officials plan to set a new organization-wide minimum wage and increase stipends for teachers in high-needs schools next year using funds that would otherwise have been earmarked for pensions.

A bill that reduces the amount the district contributes each year to PERA, the state’s pension fund, was signed into law today. The new law frees up approximately $20 million per year.

DPS had previously contributed to PERA at a higher rate than other districts in the state and as a result has a retirement fund that is more fully funded than the rest of the state. (Read this Denver Post story for more on Denver Public Schools and PERA.)

“I was delighted to see the law pass to provide for equity between DPS and the state’s other school districts and fulfill the promise of the PERA merger.” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg.

DPS officials laid out their plans for the new funds at Gov. John Hickenlooper’s bill signing event this morning.

The new minimum wage for Denver school employees will be $12 per hour. The increase will affect some 1,700 employees, including paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, and custodial staff. Some of those employees are currently paid $9 per hour.

DPS will double its subsidy for health insurance from $750 per year to $1,500 per year.

The district plans to use the funds to add 30 teachers to its turnaround schools, to hire an additional 150 teachers in each of the next two years, and to expand its teacher leadership program.

DPS also plans to create a new set of financial incentives for teachers in 30 high-poverty, challenging schools. (Teachers across the district are slated to get a 5.6 percent raise next year.) Teachers would receive between $2,000 to $4,000 depending their evaluation score.

Boasberg said those changes were spurred partly by the recommendations of a task force focused on teacher retention in high-needs schools.

Denver Classroom Teachers Association representatives had advocated for some PERA funds to go to teachers, but one representative said DCTA had not given input on the proposal laid out at the bill signing.

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.