Denver public school staff fight for living wage
Teachers are not paid enough. Most of the school staff that parents haven’t met are paid even less, but they’re just as important. Denver Public Schools paraprofessionals, custodial staff, nutrition workers and others who keep schools running want a $5 raise.
Many say they barely earn enough to get by.
These workers gathered at DPS headquarters on Tuesday to rally, demanding the district meet their union demands and pay them at least $20 an hour.
“Fifteen dollars and 87 cents an hour is not enough to live with dignity in Denver,” said a spokesperson for Coloradans for the Common Good. “Nor is it enough to retain a workforce that brings joy to students and keeps families in our public school system.”
Salary negotiations are underway.
On Tuesday, the DPS called its proposed minimum wage increase a “Road to $20.”
Their suggested salary increase plan would take place over the next three years.
In 2022, salaries would increase to $16.75
In 2023, salaries would increase to $17.75
In 2024, salaries would increase to $20
When Tay Anderson, vice chairman of the DPS board, was a paraprofessional, he earned $12.87 an hour.
He wants their wages to increase.
“We’re asking people to come to work for $15 an hour and pay $5 a gallon for gas,” Anderson said. “If we haven’t come to an agreement where $20 an hour has been agreed upon, I’m prepared to reintroduce an executive limit to immediately increase wages to $20 an hour.”
He goes on to say that DPS can and will be better than this.
“Our educators should never have to worry about meeting basic needs like gas, food or lighting,” Anderson said. DPS board chairman Sochi Gaytán also said they deserved a higher salary.
Anderson told CBS4 he’s heard from DPS employees saying they’ll be leaving without a pay raise.
Paraprofessionals like Carolina Galvana don’t want to leave the district, but the rising cost of living might leave her no choice.
“Necessities are becoming more expensive every day; cars, food, everything is so expensive. Health care is so expensive,” Galvana said.
She has worked at DPS for 13 years.
Retailers and fast food restaurants offer higher salaries, but its heart is in the classroom.
“We take care of the children. We teach them, we feed them, we give them love,” Galvana said. “Teaching children is my passion and I have always dreamed of it since I was little.”
Workers like Galvana won’t just be making $20 an hour in three years.
They will return to the bargaining table with DPS on July 19.