Ask the Indy: How would a Denver teachers’ strike affect you?

Teachers at Denver's South High School, all of whom voted to strike, posed outside the school on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019 (Photo by Alex Burness)

Denver teachers are preparing to strike Monday, and we’re turning the tables on our Ask the Indy project. Rather than you asking us questions, we have questions for you. If this weekend’s last-ditch negotiations between Denver Public Schools and the teachers’ union fail, how would a strike affect you or people you know? We’ll take your responses — please make them as specific as possible — and put them together into a story.  

Here’s an example: Rebecca Lovvorn, a Denver Public Schools English teacher and single mother of three, tells us she worries about the stress a strike will cause for her kids, especially her oldest son. He is autistic, and he struggles when his routine is disrupted. “We’re trying to talk to him and prepare him that he’s not going to see the same people at school next week,” said Lovvorn, who is in her first year of teaching at the Gilliam Youth Services Center detention facility, which houses a Denver Public School site in downtown Denver.

A strike, she said, will also compound the family’s financial problems.

In addition to teaching, she’s a graduate student and runs a custom art and calligraphy business on the side, to bring in extra money. The extra income isn’t enough, so Lovvorn said she has turned to food banks for the past three months to help feed her family, a necessity she describes as “humiliating.”

She views the strike as a necessary evil. “I was really hoping that the district would just agree to what I feel are really logical and fair requests. What we’re asking for is not a ridiculous request; we’re asking to make a decent living wage.”

Educators are paid twice monthly and received their most recent paycheck on Feb. 7. What happens, she worries, if the next check doesn’t come through? The union has started a strike fund through GoFundMe. But Lovvorn does not know how money from the fund will be distributed or if she will receive any. She has also been told that the National Education Association may issue emergency loans, but “a loan when you’re super broke doesn’t help anything; it just adds another bill to my month that I can’t afford,” she said.

The school her middle child attends has announced that due to teacher shortages during the strike, children will be separated by grade level within the gym and the auditorium. She said, “It’s not my favorite thing to hear, both as a teacher and a mom.”

How many others in the DPS community — parents, teachers, substitute teachers, coaches, etc. — can identify with Lovvorn’s tough situation? If a strike or its ripple effects will impact you, we hope you’ll share your story.

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