Denver teachers union and district reach tentative agreement

The Denver Teachers Union and Denver Public Schools have reached a tentative agreement that raises salaries an average of 8.7% and sets a new starting salary of just over $50,000.

The announcement of an agreement comes after a marathon negotiation session between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and district leaders that began Wednesday morning and ended Thursday morning.

The previous contract, approved after the 2019 teachers’ strike, expired on Wednesday. The students returned to class on August 22.

Districts across the region have announced substantial wage increases as they battle staff shortages, fierce competition for employees and inflation.

The main sticking points in the negotiations included compensation and the workload of special service providers. The teachers’ union had proposed a 12% increase in the cost of living on top of the planned increases teachers get for years of experience and levels of education, known as steps and pathways. The district had proposed a 3.5% increase in the cost of living, with the average increase approaching 6.2% for steps and driveways.

According to a district press release, returning teachers will see an average salary increase of 8.7% this year. The deal will cost the district $40.5 million in teacher compensation in the first year. Increases in the second and third years of the agreement will be tied to increased state funding, a district spokesperson said.

The starting salary will be set at $50,130 this year, up from $47,291 last year.

The district is also investing an additional $2.5 million to cover rising health insurance costs for all employees, including teachers. The $2.5 million comes from the $9 million the district saved by cutting jobs in its central office, the spokesperson said.

“This new agreement represents continuity of teaching and learning for our teachers and students, something desperately needed as we all work to help our students get back on track after the pandemic,” said Superintendent Alex Marrero in the press release.

The Denver Classroom Teachers Association said the agreement takes “the necessary steps to attract, recruit and retain the highest quality educators.”

“The past two years have been the toughest years for students and educators,” union president Rob Gould said in a statement. “Educators have worked tirelessly to ensure our students’ needs are met, despite unprecedented challenges. They stepped up and went above and beyond.

Although the district touted the “protected, out-of-classroom time” in the new contract as the best in the metro area, the weather hasn’t changed: a 45-minute duty-free lunch every day and at least five hours per week of independent planning time for primary teachers, with secondary teachers benefiting from an additional 45 minutes on top.

Widespread staff shortages last year meant many teachers lost planning time and lunch breaks as they filled in for missing colleagues. The district did not provide details on how it would protect teachers’ time this school year.

The agreement also calls for the creation of a committee to examine class size issues and teacher evaluation systems, as well as a new platform to discuss racial equity, including efforts to recruit and retain more educators of color. The majority of Denver teachers are white, while the majority of Denver students are not.

Union members and the Denver School Board have yet to ratify the agreement.

Senior reporter Melanie Asmar contributed to this report.

Bureau Chief Erica Meltzer covers education policy and politics and oversees Chalkbeat Colorado’s education coverage. Contact Erica at

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