Bargaining Update: A week that began with hope ended in a walk out

DCTA: District does not value teacher voice or fully commit to the quality education of every Denver student


DCTA entered the week with high hopes on Monday as Association and District representatives began a marathon four-day stretch of Bargaining Sessions to finalize an agreement on a Master Contract. Unfortunately, as the sessions continued it became increasingly apparent that DPS representatives present at the meetings were unable to provide concrete solutions or make decisions surrounding concerns over LEAP, workload, maternity leave, teacher salaries or classroom materials.


In complete disregard of DCTA?s demonstrated full commitment to the bargaining process, DPS continued to obfuscate, delay and downright ignore the Association?s good-faith efforts at coming to agreement on key provisions of the contract.


?It?s been at least 23 years since our relationship has been in such peril,? DCTA bargaining team member Rob Gould said at the close of Thursday?s session. ?We have three weeks till our contract expires and we?ve been very concerned about your inability to bargain.?


Nevertheless, DCTA remains committed to the bargaining process, recommending additional days for sessions leading up to the Aug. 31 expiration of the current contract and expressing hope that the district will re-engage in negotiations next week.


A few things we learned this week:


  1. Despite claiming they understand the importance of small class sizes, the district was incapable of providing an accurate assessment of average DPS class sizes during negotiations this week, saying ?it?s complicated.? Instead, the district presented class size figures that were clearly inaccurate, created through a convoluted formula. If DPS has trouble with simple math, DCTA has some teachers who can help. We have folks who teach kids how to count every day.


    ?Without this basic information, how can the district claim the costs of reducing class size is too expensive?? said DCTA President Henry Roman. ?More important, why does the district seem so reluctant to release this information? It?s irresponsible and frankly deceitful to present data that does not reflect the reality of what teachers and students face in the classroom.?


  3. DPS is clearly not willing to fully commit to its legal obligation to provide comparable instructional materials for Spanish-language and special education students. DCTA teachers are often forced to identify their own solutions for these necessary classroom materials, using their own time, resources and often, money, to serve students in the manner they deserve. At best, the District offers assurances it ?will endeavor? to make a ?good faith effort? to provide these materials ?whenever available.?


    ?This isn?t a commitment to quality education,? Roman said. ?It?s a flimsy excuse and an abdication of responsibility that leaves students without adequate materials and puts teachers? careers at risk of failing to meet their classroom obligations through no fault of their own.?


  5. The District apparently feels it?s appropriate to reject DCTA proposals outright without so much as reviewing them. That was made clear when DCTA presented its counter proposals on several issues and DPS representatives scoffed at the proposals despite admitting they had not fully digested the information the proposals contained. In addition, the District claims it values teacher voice, yet continues to disregard proposals that would provide Denver teachers a greater say in key areas of classroom management.


    ?Our teachers are the professionals on the ground working with students day in and day out,? said Roman. ?Yet the District feels their staff at the central office is better suited to gauge how conditions can be improved in the classroom. It?s an insult to every hard-working professional who lives and breathes quality education every moment of every day in Denver?s schools.?


Frustrated with the lack of engagement from the district, DCTA opted to end Thursday?s session nearly two hours early ? with the hope that District representatives will spend the weekend actually reviewing proposals and return to the table with concrete solutions.


?This is not bargaining,? DCTA Executive Director Pam Shamburg said at the close of Thursday?s session. ?It works when you examine your proposal and our proposal and find somewhere to land in the middle. That?s how you bargain. That?s how this works for students.?


Bargaining continues on Monday, Aug. 14 with a session from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. at McKinley-Thatcher Elementary School. It is critical that DCTA members and community supporters attend this session to show the district we are committed to quality education in Denver.