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Denver Teacher Strike Scabs Could Include Central Office Personnel

January 25, 2019

Denver Public Schools (DPS) is on the verge of a strike, which may be delayed for as long as several months, as it turns out, because DPS has called upon the state to intervene.

Still, the threat of a strike looms.

As such, DPS superintendent Susana Cordova and the DPS board have a plan in place to pressure central office staff to become scabs. From the January 25, 2019, Denver Post:

A memo from DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova this week alerted central office workers that all non-essential district operations at the central office will be suspended until a strike is resolved, and everyone will be expected to work in schools, whether that be in substitute teaching roles, working on lunch duty or being a hall monitor. …

A “minimal number” of central office employees who are needed to keep the district operating, such as those involved in payroll and security, would be notified by their supervisor to continue their roles in the event of a strike, Cordova wrote in her memo to staff.

Those with an active teaching or administrative license were told to support in classrooms. Central office employees have the option to obtain a guest teaching license paid for by the district or do non-instructional work like helping serve students lunch and patrolling the hallways.

“We ask that those with school-facing instructional roles, such as curriculum specialists or ELA partners, obtain their guest teaching license,” Cordova wrote. …

District officials already have begun a hunt for substitute teachers as the impending strike looms, targeting furloughed workers who are out of their jobs because of the government shutdown and letting job candidates know the district will be reimbursing associated paperwork and licensing fees and “expediting everything.”

Note how school choice becomes the irony (hypocrisy?) in this forced-scab situation:

Tay Anderson, a restorative practice coordinator at Denver’s North High School, said people from central administration are upset by the mandate.

“They are upset because they’re being forced to do something that’s against their will and that’s not their job,” Anderson said. “Some of those people have never been in a classroom. Some have been removed from the classroom for years. I don’t think it’s OK whatsoever to tell your employees you’re either going to go into a school or you’re going to be fired. We can’t be a district that proclaims school choice and then doesn’t give our employees a choice.”

Indeed, in 2017, Chalkbeat noted that “portfolio”-styled DPS is more a charter district than a traditional school district.

In the wake of the DPS strike, Denver’s charter schools have taken to “reassuring parents” that Denver’s charter schools will “tackle pay” and remain open– which could be particularly tricky given that some Denver charters share space with schools that will involved in the strike. From the January 23, 2019, Chalkbeat:

The day after news that Denver teachers union members had voted to strike, Denver’s largest charter school operators reassured families their schools will keep operating as usual and sought to highlight their own efforts to better compensate teachers.  …

Teachers at Denver’s 60 charter schools are not union members and won’t be going on strike.

But around the nation, unions have started to organize charter teachers, and the issue of teacher pay and how schools are funded has drawn more public attention.

While classes at charter schools wouldn’t be directly affected by a Denver strike, any labor action will still touch those students and their families. Many Denver charters share space with district-operated schools in district-owned buildings….

Leaders from both Denver charter school networks say their efforts on teacher compensation are in response to broader state funding challenges and not connected to the DPS negotiations or the potential for a Denver strike.

Denver charter operators’ reassurance reported above came one day after the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) voted to strike, as noted in the January 22, 2019, Denver Post:

Denver teachers have voted to strike in the name of fair wages, marking the first time educators in Colorado’s largest school district have agreed to walk out of their classrooms in 25 years.

The results of voting by the teachers union — the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which represents about two-thirds of Denver Public Schools’ 5,600 educators — were announced Tuesday night following the culmination of balloting that began on Saturday.

“Tonight, Denver teachers overwhelmingly agreed to strike,” Rob Gould, the union’s lead negotiator, said at a press conference. “Ninety three percent voted to strike. They’re striking for better pay. They’re striking for our profession. And they’re striking for Denver students.”

Contentious negotiations over a new contract governing Denver teachers’ pay scale played out in marathon bargaining sessions over the last two weeks, and stretched back over 14 months. In the end, the district and union were about $8 million apart.

Even though DPS has appealed to the state to intervene in the Denver teachers’ strike, and even though Colorado governor Jared Polis agreed to informally meet with both DPS and the union, there is no word yet from Polis as to whether his office will proceed with formal interventions.

It also remains to be seen how the DPS central office staff will handle Cordova’s forced-scab mandate.

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Want to read about the history of charter schools and vouchers?

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Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of two other books: A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?. You should buy these books. They’re great. No, really.

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