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Teachers Seek Professional Compensation

The Numbers Behind Red For Ed In DPS

Strikes and protests have played out across the nation, with plenty of images showing teachers agitating for higher pay.

Here in Denver, Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association agreed in the fall to an increase of $1,400 to the base salary for teachers. More recently, on April 27, many schools cancelled classes as thousands of Colorado teachers walked out of classrooms. Wearing red for ed, they marched to the state Capitol demanding better funding for schools. DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg, along with some board members, joined to advocate for more money for education.

Behind the scenes, there are currently ongoing negotiations between DPS and the DCTA to renew and extend ProComp, the Professional Compensation System for Teachers. An agreement must be made by January, which is the extended deadline on which DPS and DCTA agreed.

“We will not extend the deadline again,” says DCTA Executive Director Pamela Shamburg. If DPS cannot put forth an acceptable proposal by then, she adds, “we will take a job action that can include a strike.”

DPS teachers are planning a series of actions between now and then. For example, walk-ins – during which teachers walk into school as a group, holding signs – took place on Tuesday mornings during the month of May at several high schools.

Pro-what?

In 2005, Denver voters passed a $25 million yearly tax increase, adjusted annually for inflation. The money was to help fund a new teacher salary payment system called ProComp. This system, put into effect in January 2006, promised to increase teachers’ base pay over their careers as well as give bonuses.

Currently, the tax levies more than $30 million that is included in a total of approximately $330 million allocated for teacher salaries.

This first version of ProComp paid teachers according to their years of experience and education  levels, with potential additions to base pay for professional development and evaluations. Bonuses were allocated for working in “hard to serve” schools, teaching difficult-to-staff subjects and according to student growth.

Teachers hired starting in 2006 were automatically enrolled in ProComp. Teachers already in the system had the option to opt-in.

ProComp2

In 2008, DPS and DCTA reviewed the system and rolled out ProComp2 that increased potential bonuses but capped base pay increases for teachers with more than 14 years of teaching in DPS. More money went to one-time yearly bonuses and less towards increasing a teacher’s base pay.   

The system privileges bonuses early in a teacher’s career but not late in a career, says Shamburg. “Over time, you lose out.”

The district disagrees. In a November 2017 interview with the online news site Chalkbeat, DPS Deputy General Counsel Michelle Berge said that, “our teachers in the ProComp system are earning more than they would on the traditional salary schedule.”

The 14-year cap

A teacher with up to 14 years of service can add $833 per year to the base salary for participating in approved ongoing professional development. After that, a teacher can obtain the $833 as a bonus, but it will not be added to the teacher’s base salary.

Similarly, a satisfactory evaluation can increase one’s salary by $833/year for the first 14 years. After that, the increase is only $416 per year.

Margaret Bobb, a veteran science teacher at East High School who was a member of the first ProComp Transition Team, says ProComp2 was essentially a “bait and switch.” ProComp, she says, brought teachers back to the previous compensation system, and capped teachers’ ability to increase their pay after 13 years of service.

If there is no change to the system, Shamburg predicts Denver will lose ground to other districts. She notes that some teachers are already going to other districts or going out of DPS and then coming back to have a salary reset and earn more.

With ProComp2, a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree starts at $41,689. If, for the next 10 years, that teacher does everything possible to max out his or her base salary by earning $833 yearly for taking professional development classes, and another $833 for a positive evaluation, that teacher would then earn $58,349. If the teacher earned a Master’s degree within those 10 years, that would be an additional $3,752 for a total of $62,101.

In Cherry Creek, that same teacher would be earning $70,361. In Aurora, the salary would be $64,517. For a DPS teacher who stayed on the traditional salary schedule and did not opt-in to ProComp, the salary would be $59,682, slightly lower than what one would make in Westminster Public Schools, $59,468.

Can’t afford one more dime

Anna Noble, who teaches honors and AP chemistry at East, was advised to remain on the traditional pay schedule because of her years of experience. Now a 15-year DPS veteran teacher with two masters degrees and two teenagers of her own, her salary does not allow her to qualify for a mortgage in Denver.

“My salary is maxed out, and THEN we are adding on top of it increasing contributions for my health insurance of almost $1,000 a month,” Noble wrote to the DPS Board of Education. “Now you are saying my PERA contributions are going up too! I literally can not afford one more dime!”

Meanwhile, Noble has worked evenings and every single weekend this year pushing herself and her students to do better.

(As a personal aside, my son took AP chemistry with Noble and she wrote him a recommendation letter for his college application. He will be starting at CU in the engineering department, in part because of Noble’s hard work. The tragic irony is that in four years, if my son succeeds in the program, there is a good chance he will make more money than Noble will with almost 20 years of teaching behind her. )

“Why should I stay here when I could move to another district and continue to receive salary increments for my entire teaching career?” Noble asks. “Another colleague of mine told me that by leaving teaching for a year and then coming back, she is now making $8,000 a year more than she was because she is able to get onto ProComp. Is this what I have to do too?”

ProComp3?

In setting guidelines for the future of ProComp, Shamburg says teachers want transparency and simplicity. The current system is so complex that Shamburg reports some teachers do not know if they are being paid the correct amount. Others say it is difficult to predict how much they will be paid from year to year as bonuses change.

Tiffany Choi, who teaches French at East High School, participated in a walk-in protest on May 8. She says she makes $2,000 less than she earned a couple of years ago. This makes it progressively difficult for teachers to plan their futures in a city that is becoming increasingly expensive.

A return to a more predictable salary schedule is what the union is seeking.

The latest round: Stay tuned

During the March 14 round of negotiations, DPS presented a power point that suggested eliminating professional development units as a way to increase one’s base salary and extending salary increases based on evaluations beyond year 14.

At the bargaining table, DCTA has proposed a salary schedule that would pay a teacher with a Bachelor’s degree $45,000. After 20 years of teaching, that same teacher could earn $74,925. If that teacher earned a Master’s degree along the way, the maximum salary reached at year 20 would be $86,175.

Boasberg said in March that if only DPS had the funds, he would put it toward teacher salaries. The legislature just allocated DPS an additional $50 million dollars. Will some of those funds go towards teacher salaries? We might not know until January.

Lynn Kalinauskas is Education Chair of GPHC, Inc.


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