We’ve seen it Oklahoma and in Kentucky. If things don’t change soon, teachers in Pueblo will also be walking off the job.
"Today we have filed an intent with the Colorado Department of Labor, a notice that we intend to strike," said Suzanne Ethredge, President of the Pueblo Education Association.
The teachers and paraprofessionals of Pueblo School District 60 have worked all year without a new contract. Salaries were kept at last year’s levels.
After months of failed negotiations, a third party fact finder recommended a 2 percent cost of living increase with. Yet on Thursday, the Board of Education said no.
"This in no way is a reflection of the levels of respect that we have for our educators and the work that they do every day in our classrooms, they’re the ones providing quality education," said District Spokesman Dalton Sprouse.
Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso explained in an email distributed district-wide that there just isn’t enough money in savings to cover the roughly $1.7 million in extra salary that was negotiated. Declining enrollment and emergency building repairs put the district millions of dollars into the red.
"We project that our expenditures will outpace revenues by $3.6 million this year," Macaluso wrote. "As stewards of the taxpayer dollars, we cannot in good faith continue to raid our reserves to pay for salary increases for previous years."
Earlier this year, the board announced plans to convert the school calendar to 4 day weeks. That move is anticipated to save the district around $1.2 million. However, that savings will not be realized until the end of the next school year.
"As our enrollment continues to decline, the Board will have to make difficult decisions about funding, including potential reductions in workforce and school closures," Macaluso wrote.
"We want to really start budgeting and planning for the future," said Sprouse. "We think that that’s going to put us in the best possible position so that we can anticipate and we can provide those pay increases for our teachers that they rightfully deserve."
But Ethredge said her members, who’ve done their jobs all year in good faith, feel betrayed and backed into a corner.
"We feel like there was not an adequate intent by the board to ever negotiate this contract and we do feel indeed like our hand is being forced," she said.
More than 700 of Pueblo’s roughly 1,000 teachers are members of the Education Association. There is a 20 day period in which the Colorado Department of Labor may choose to intervene in a last-minute attempt at mediation before a strike.