A strike is possible if teacher negotiations stop in Pueblo

Strike is possible if teacher...

PUEBLO, Colo. - Michael Maes has been a teacher at East High School in Pueblo for five years.

"I wanted to help troubled kids," Maes said.

He said Pueblo City Schools doesn't give its teachers the respect they deserve.

"We hear a lot of lip service about respect. But the actions don't often equal the words," Maes said.

Since last October, the Pueblo Education Association has been fighting for a 1 percent  raise and increased health care support for its teachers and paraprofessionals.

"We had a spell several years ago where our salaries were frozen for a period of three years, and we've never really been able to make up that ground," said Suzanne Ethredge, the president of the teachers' union.

Ethredge said it's not only about benefits, but upping the competitiveness of the district.

"Compared to Colorado Springs, they're struggling to find teachers," Ethredge said.

District 60 officials sent us a statement saying, "Our school district is facing one of the most challenging budgeting years in our history. Given the uncertainty of our finances and whether the state legislature will increase or reduce per-pupil funding, we are compelled to approach the negotiations process with caution at all levels to try to alleviate the need to make even more cuts to our budget moving forward. At the education associations’ request, the District has agreed to work with an independent fact finder to assist in making recommendations to help both parties reach a resolution."

Ethredge said she hopes they can come to an agreement with the district before their actions get more drastic. But they haven't ruled out a strike.

"We certainly do not want to go there, that would be an option of very last resort, but are we beginning to toss that idea around? We are," Ethredge said.

Maes said they are just looking for help in a costly world.

"It's difficult to make ends meet. Many teachers have second jobs. I have a second job. My wife has a second job," Maes said.

The district and the union are now awaiting a recommendation from a fact finder on the contract negotiations.

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