Union timid over DougCo’s offer to raise teachers’ salaries | Denver Gazette


As the school year draws to a close, we all owe immense gratitude to the teachers who are the lifeblood of every school. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought their sacrifices to light. They worked diligently to get students back on track amid deep learning losses and difficult disciplinary challenges.

Unfortunately, even before inflation skyrocketed, teachers were not paid enough. In the 30 years from 1990 – when I was born – to 2020, Colorado’s education spending has increased by 20%. During the same period, teachers’ salaries fell by 20%. We owe our teachers better.

In the metro area, the predicament with teacher pay is most acute in schools in Douglas County, where pay lags woefully behind neighboring districts and no new schools have been built since 2010. .

So why are some organizations – such as the recently created DougCo collective and the teachers’ union – less enthusiastic about ensuring a reliable pay scale for teachers and building new neighborhood schools in areas with rapid growth ?

In March, the school board approved a “stepped” pay system to increase salaries for licensed district employees, particularly teachers. It involves a clear and consistent pay scale and pay increases based on criteria such as years of service, qualifications, education levels and difficulty in filling a position.

It’s a system that teachers have long hoped for and one that school board chairman Mike Peterson says will provide greater “predictability, stability and competitiveness.”

Here’s the catch: The board approved the plan starting next school year, but DougCo only has enough funding to cover two or three years. Adequate funding for the longer-term stage and path requires voters to pass a factory tax waiver (property tax increase).

The measure is expected during the November election and would be coupled with an obligation to finance the construction of new schools. Douglas County is growing at an accelerating rate but has not built a new school since 2010. A mill fee waiver and bond is required because mill fees fund operating expenses such as pay teachers, while the bonds cover capital costs.

You might expect the “conservative majority on the board” to balk at tax increases or new debt. This is especially understandable given that the last time voters gave their approval, in November 2018, was when conservative-leaning DougCo trusted a liberal majority on the board. Implementation has not sufficiently increased teachers’ salaries; bond money strengthened existing school infrastructure rather than building new ones.

Peterson explained his support for this one.

“Our teachers in Douglas County, frankly, surpass their peers. We must honor their work and their sacrifices. We really need this MLO to bridge the pay gap between surrounding districts,” he said.

Kevin DiPasquale, president of the Douglas County Federation (teachers’ union), agrees that “while it won’t pay all DCSD employees fairly with other school districts in the metro area, it’s a small not in the right direction”. He added: “(We) support the factory’s levy and bond proposals.”

Strangely, apparent union allies like upstart DougCo Collective are casting doubt. Incorporated in March by veteran education bureaucrat Elliott Asp, the Collective began to point to a “significant lack of trust in the Douglas County community with the BoE’s newly elected majority trustees.”

The alleged trust issues center on disagreements over several policy issues on which the Majority was elected, including masks and fairness, as well as opposition to the recent firing of former Superintendent Corey Wise and the hiring Erin Kane to replace him.

While the Collective agrees that DougCo needs a factory fee waiver, it already justifies its disapproval. If that fails, according to their website, the majority of the board “will include blaming the teachers themselves.” It’s a strange approach for supposed proponents of ballot measures.

Indeed, an incredible coalescence of forces should unite strongly in the best interests of students and teachers. Regardless of politics, all stakeholders should fully fund the compensation plan that teachers have been patiently waiting for. So why some pre-lobbed excuses for the possible failure of the waiver by slandering the majority of four board members?

Unlike 2018, there is a specific compensation plan that voters can study. This is not an abstract promise: Step-and-lane is happening. Teachers need confidence that they won’t fall prey to another bait and switch in pay. Long-term financing will provide this certainty.

While DiPasquale insists that a recall “is a question for the community to answer,” it’s pretty clear that the union — which actually represents a minority of DougCo teachers — and DougCo Collective are laying the groundwork for remove the four new members. This would undoubtedly undermine the effort to meet the real and long-term financial needs of the district.

Does the union back the MLO to fund step-and-lane? They say so. But what about prioritizing better compensation for their members over potential recall?

DiPasquale echoed the Collective’s argument of distrust. “The actions of new school board members likely inhibit the community’s desire to fully fund schools as district dollars are spent defending the egregious actions of new board members,” he said. “This new council has had months to focus on a factory tax and bond for students and staff, but that has yet to happen.”

After the current board took office last November, he wasted no time in prioritizing compensation. They quickly launched the process in December and approved the plan in March. A presentation of formal ballot wording is expected at the June 7 meeting. Seems pretty quick to me.

The sentiment that “we don’t like who runs the school board, so it’s okay to oppose better teacher compensation” is a test of credulity. DougCo teachers paid their dues multiple times. It is high time they were paid theirs.

The coming months will reveal who is genuinely on board.

Jimmy Sengenberger hosts “The Jimmy Sengenberger Show” Saturdays from 6-9am on News/Talk 710 KNUS. He also hosts “Jimmy at the Crossroads”, a webcast and podcast in partnership with The Washington Examiner.


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