Teachers in the Park County RE-2 school district and the district's board of trustees continue to spar over whether teachers might walk out at a critical time: the Oct. 2 date for counting students, which determines the district's state funding.
On Tuesday, the board and district sent out a news release that claimed the South Park Education Association (SPEA) is "poised to strike at the beginning of October during student count time. This is the time that determines funding for the year based on the number of present," the news release said, and a strike during student count "will inflict irreparable harm on the Park County School District RE-2 budget," possibly for years.
It also would jeopardize the district's ability to provide future raises to its employees, including the teachers, the release added.
While the district pleaded with SPEA not to strike on Oct. 2, it also stated that it has no obligation to recognize SPEA after the most recent contract expired on June 30, and that the union has no contractual right to bargain on behalf of teachers.
It's teacher pay that divides the two sides. The district noted that it had made a comprehensive offer regarding information on the district's finances, but that the salary increases included in the previous contract were all that the district would offer.
SPEA has asked for a $6,000 across-the-board increase for teachers, noting that many cannot afford to live in the district.
On Thursday SPEA responded, stating that the Oct. 2 count date is still two weeks away.
"The count date is irrelevant if the district does the right thing now to address the learning conditions of our students and the working conditions for its employees,” said SPEA President Taya Mastrobuono, an elementary school teacher, in a statement. "Throughout the entire process, SPEA members have only wanted to talk with the district about being part of the solution for fair pay and professional respect. Our voices need to be heard to save our schools.”
The two sides are slated to meet on Thursday, although district and board of trustees representatives have bailed on three previously scheduled meetings that they requested, citing SPEA's use of "bargain" in discussing the meetings.
The district enrolled 698 students in 2018-19.
If Park County teachers strike, it will be the second time teachers in Colorado have walked off the job in 2019 over teacher pay issues. (Denver teachers were out for three days in February.)