DENVER – When Jenna Jones told her third-graders why she planned to join a teacher strike Monday, several students at the predominately low-income school did their best to step up.
Jones told them she can’t afford to live in Denver on her teacher’s salary. She commutes every day from Castle Rock, about 20 miles south of the city, to McMeen Elementary School.
One student left $2 on her desk, she said. A couple of others tried to give her the Chick-fil-A gift cards they’d earned for perfect attendance. She didn’t take them, she said, but she was moved.
Demanding better pay, Jones and her fellow Denver Public Schools teachers picketed on sidewalks and rallied at the Colorado Capitol on Monday, kicking off the 207-school district’s first strike in 25 years. The walkout marked the latest in a year of teacher strikes across the nation.
More than half of DPS teachers – 2,631 of 4,725 – didn’t report to school Monday, according to the district. The union said the number of picketing educators was higher, close to 3,800.
Teachers “felt we had to use the last tool in our tool chest” after 15 months of negotiating with the district, said Rob Gould, lead negotiator for the Denver Classroom Teachers Association.
The two sides met Saturday in a last-ditch effort to come to an agreement but were unable to resolve their differences. Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday.