The Democrats, however, are just as much the enemies of teachers and public education as the Republicans.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on Monday expressed support for the teachers' pay demands and offered to help mediate the dispute. Wearing winter boots, hats, and mittens, the teachers hoisted signs into the air and chanted at the top of their lungs.
"What else do you want from us, Susana?" he asked. Teachers are also subject to a draconian incentive system-co-designed by their own union-that ties pay to student performance, under conditions in which per-pupil funding in the state is 39th in the US. "Yesterday!" went one refrain. "You left us no choice!"
The Denver Classroom Teachers Association, which represents more than 5,500 district employees, declared a strike after the union and school district failed to agree on pay raises. The scene Monday morning was as raucous as it was frigid, and until the strike ends, things look to continue this way.
Rob Gould, lead negotiator for the DCTA, told reporters that the strike was "the last tool in our tool chest".
Merit pay or performance pay, where teachers are paid based in part on how well their students perform on state tests, including bonuses for the most effective teachers, was widely embraced during the Obama-era education reform years, when the majority of states overhauled their academic standards, state tests and teacher evaluation and compensation systems.
The Denver Public Schools district has said its latest proposal would raise teachers' pay by almost 11 percent next year, while the union has called that figure inflated.
Jayden Tolson, a high school junior at Montbello, went into school early Monday morning. Some students crossed picket lines to get to class as schools remained open with administrators and substitute teachers. "There's no reason for me to be in school today", Tolson says.
- An increased starting salary of $45,800 for new teachers.
Denver's first teachers' strike in a quarter of a century is the result of 11th-hour negotiations that collapsed over the weekend.
The union says students deserve teachers who "stay in Denver for the entirety of their careers, and Denver educators deserve to afford to live in the communities they serve".
Meanwhile, some parents have made a decision to hold their children out of school during the strike.
"We are going to make this a national cause", Eskelsen Garcia said.
Henry Waldstreicher, a senior at George Washington High School, said he will picket with his teachers at 6:30 a.m. but be in class by 7:25 a.m. "We want something that is right, and we want it for our kids".
"Many of the students in this group are in need of the most critical support to maintain their health and safety, including students with severe intellectual disabilities and serious health conditions", says the lawsuit, filed Monday in federal district court by a Colorado law firm. But in the DPS system that type of stability is increasingly rare. The city's school district gives bonuses ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 a year to teachers who work in schools with students from low-income families, in schools that are designated high priority or in positions that are considered hard to staff, such as special education or speech language pathology. I've seen people leave the state.