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Denver Teachers Strike Enters Second Day, Negotiations Continue

DENVER (CBS4) - The Denver Classroom Teachers Association and DPS leaders returned to the negotiating table on Tuesday, the second day of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association strike as their members were on the picket line again across the district.

Leaders from Denver Public Schools met with the union negotiating team at the Denver Central Library going back and forth all day. They met on three separate occasions over eight hours eventually getting a new proposal from DPS.

The discussion on Tuesday morning and into the afternoon focused on calculating salaries for teachers in a schedule based on experience. The district made changes to how a teacher moves from one lane to the next on the pay schedule based on their degree, professional development, and years with the district.

The union still had several questions and concerns Tuesday evening when they got their first chance to review that proposal.

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The teachers strike began Monday after negotiations broke down over the weekend. This is the first time in 25 years teachers in Colorado's largest school district have gone on strike.

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Negotiations began at 10 a.m. at Denver Central Library and are scheduled to continue through 8 p.m. Tuesday.

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The negotiations were full with teachers, some of them carrying signs they had at the picket lines earlier in the day.

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"So at this point in my life if the district doesn't accept the union offer, I will have to leave. Whether that means leaving the district or another job, I just can't stay at DPS. I cannot survive on what they're offering," said Thomas Jefferson High School teacher Jennifer Stephenson.

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Teachers, parents, students and supporters gathered outside East High School about 10 a.m. Tuesday for a rally. At 12:30 p.m., the group marched to Civic Center Park where they will rally. Everyone was invited to the public event.

Copter4 flew over the march as hundreds of teachers made their way to Civic Center Park.

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DPS has promised parents and students they will try to keep schools open and running during the strike. Last week, DPS Superintendent Susana Cordova said that due to the strike, early childhood education classes would be cancelled.

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The DCTA and the district reserved the same library room for Wednesday if the strike enters a third day. Both sides could make a tentative agreement on the details of a contract, sending teachers back to work without signing a new contract and voting on it.

DPS and the union would need agree on not only the terms of a new deal but also when teachers should return to the classroom, and how to handle the days teachers missed because of the strike.

On Monday, there were students who were disappointed at the lack of supervision in some of the high schools.

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About 58 percent of teachers stayed away from classrooms on Tuesday, a little more than Monday. Members of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association voted Jan. 22 to strike. The State of Colorado announced it would not intervene on Feb. 6. That cleared the way for teachers to begin striking Monday.

The dispute is over the school district's incentive-based pay system. The city's school district gives bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 a year to teachers who work in schools with students from low-income families, in schools that are designated high priority or in positions that are considered hard to staff, such as special education or speech language pathology.

The union is pushing to lower or eliminate some of those bonuses to free up more money that would be added to overall teacher pay.

DPS says the disputed bonuses are key to boosting the academic performance of poor and minority students.

Teachers believe relying on bonuses leads to high turnover which hurts students. They also say spending money on smaller class sizes and adding more support staff is the best way to help disadvantaged students learn.

DPS has proposed raising starting teacher salaries from $43,255 to $45,500 a year. That's $300 a year less than the union's proposal, which would add $50 million a year to teacher base pay, according to union officials.

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