Denver teachers plan strike in contract dispute

Denver teachers say they plan to strike starting Monday after Colorado officials declined to intervene in a pay dispute between the educators and the school district

DENVER -- Denver teachers said they plan to strike next week after Colorado officials declined to intervene Wednesday in a pay dispute between the educators and the school district.

State officials believe the two sides are close to a negotiated agreement, Department of Labor Executive Director Joe Barela said.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said he expects the Denver Public Schools system and the union representing teachers to keep talking through the week to try to avoid a strike.

"This represents an 11th-hour opportunity over the next few days for both sides to close the gap over these limited, remaining issues," Polis said.

The main sticking point was increasing base pay, including lessening teachers' reliance on one-time bonuses for things such as having students with high test scores or working in a high-poverty school. Teachers also wanted to earn more for continuing their education.

A possible strike has been on hold as the state considered whether to intervene in the dispute. Officials with Denver Classroom Teachers Association, the union representing educators, previously asked the state not to interfere and to allow a possible strike to proceed.

"No teacher wants to strike, we would rather be teaching students in our classrooms," Denver teacher and association President Henry Roman said in a statement. "But when the strike starts, we will be walking for our students."

The district plans to discuss the state's decision later Wednesday.

The union represents 5,635 educators in the school system. Members voted overwhelmingly in January in favor of a strike.

Involvement by the state Department of Labor could have put a strike on hold for up to 180 days.

About 30,000 teachers in Los Angeles, the nation's second-largest school district, went on strike last month, adding momentum to a wave of activism by teachers around the country. They returned to work after six days off the job after winning pay raises and a commitment to reducing class sizes.