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Both Sides Continue To Negotiate In Denver Teacher Strike


Now, let's hear some of the teachers on strike in Denver, Colo. They begin their third day out of school today, and some spoke with Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio.

JENNY BRUNDIN, BYLINE: It's the first teachers strike in Denver in 25 years. Teachers say the district just began bargaining in the last few weeks, despite negotiations that started 15 months ago. That's one reason teachers are frustrated.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) Shut it down. If they don't pay up, shut it down.

JOHN HAYCRAFT: My name is John Haycraft, and I am pissed.

BRUNDIN: Teacher John Haycraft joins several hundred teachers at a downtown rally, just across the street from bargaining. Teachers say the current dispute stems from years of not listening to teachers' complaints about Denver's low pay and bonus system. Haycraft says only five of the 53 teachers he began with at the school eight years ago are still there. He wonders how long he'll stay.

HAYCRAFT: People call it burnout, but that's not the right word. I haven't burned out. I've been demoralized.

BRUNDIN: Tuesday, the district and union moved closer together on some issues. But still on the table is how much money teachers should make and incentive pay. The district sees bonuses as key to keeping teachers in highly challenged schools. The union wants that money instead put into salaries. And after nearly 13 hours of bargaining, superintendent Susana Cordova sounded a more positive tone at the end of an exhausting night.

SUSANA CORDOVA: It's been a very productive day. I think we made a lot of progress. And I'm looking forward to getting back together at the table tomorrow.

BRUNDIN: All schools except preschools are open. But many fear how long the strike will go on. Erika Righter is a single mom of two. Righter's mother watches her 4-year-old - for now.

ERIKA RIGHTER: I am incredibly nervous about how long this goes. Honestly, I don't have a plan.

BRUNDIN: More than half of teachers didn't report to work Tuesday. A third day of bargaining continues today. For NPR News, I'm Jenny Brundin in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF KORESMA'S "CLOUDS (INSIGHT VOL. 3)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.