Brewery Locks Arms with Denver Teachers During Strike
Denver’s teachers voted last week to strike after negotiations between Denver Public Schools (DPS) and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) fell though. At the center of the strike is a disagreement over teacher’s pay, including a pay-for-performance system called ProComp. During negotiations, DPS offered teachers a 10% pay raise and offered some concessions on ProComp. DCTA rejected the offer, seeking a 12.5% increase in pay and the streamlining or elimination of several ProComp incentives.
ProComp incentivizes teachers by offering bonuses for individuals that obtain an advanced degree or license, work in “hard to staff” fields or “hard to serve” schools or show positive performance in evaluations. DCTA argues that these incentives are inconsistent and that the measure of ““hard to staff” field or “hard to serve” schools fluctuates from year-to-year, creating unpredictable salaries. They also point out that even with these incentives, the average teacher income of $56,866 in Colorado is lower than the national income of $59,660 and substantially lower than the median household income in of $69,117. DCTA has proposed to eliminate several of these incentives and streamline others. While DCTA was involved in the formation of ProComp, this year they have made the restructuring of the system a larger part of negotiations over pay with the school district.
While politics and beer do not usually mix well and many avoid the topic entirely when drinking, there is a long history of the Colorado craft beer community supporting teachers, from all sides of the political spectrum, by hosting events and fundraisers. Many brewers, owners, and staff have also worked in education or are teachers that work part-time in the brewing industry. To learn more about how breweries are connected to the educational community, we reached out to Laura Bruns, co-owner of Factotum Brewhouse in Denver, Colorado and a full-time teacher in Aurora Public School (APS) to ask her a few questions about her business and her 14 years of experience in education.
PorchDrinking: What is your direct connection to the educational community?
Bruns: I am not employed by DPS (currently with APS), but have been in education for 14 years. As a teacher I realized that a lot of places offered discounts to nurses, EMT’s, military, etc (all the other under-appreciated and underpaid professions), but that NOBODY was offering discounts for teachers. Back before the brewery was even a thought, I thought it was stupid that liquor stores and bars didn’t offer a teacher discount and I said, “If I ever owned a bar or a store, I would definitely offer a teacher discount.” Fast forward many years and here we are with a brewery and the capacity to offer a discount of this kind. We included teacher’s discounts and offering special teacher appreciation weeks where any educator with a work badge gets buy-one-get-one (BOGO) beers all week in our very first business plan.
PorchDrinking: What are some events you have done in the past for teachers?
Bruns: During Teacher Appreciation Week in May, Back to School Week in August, and Winter Break Week in late December we offer unlimited BOGO for anyone in the education industry. We also work closely with our local schools like Strive Prep, Trevista, and Valdez with additional events and fundraisers.
PorchDrinking: What do you believe people should know about the strike?
Bruns: Just remember that media, due to the nature of social media, only gives snapshots of the situation. Know that I have never met a teacher who didn’t realize that teacher’s pay is subpar in this country from the very beginning and they aren’t asking for a whole lot. Over the years I have mathematically calculated other professions on a 9 month scale and too many times I am finding that my Master’s Degree pay does not even measure up to Bachelor’s Degree pay in other industries, especially with equal years of experience. If education is important, then society needs to realize they will get exactly what they pay for. Teacher shortages around the country exist for a reason. The cat is out of the bag that wages do not cover the cost of living. There are no replacement teachers, because there are not enough teachers to begin with.
DPS salary schedule is the most convoluted schedule I have ever seen. There are so many asterisks in their contract that makes it nearly impossible to get a pay raise. These teachers just want things to make sense. That’s it. They’re not asking for anything more than teachers in surrounding districts are getting, even though surrounding districts are barely meeting that line too.
Know that these teachers care vehemently about what they do and the future of our society. Know that this is truly a last resort. These teachers are emotionally torn about this decision. If you are innately a helper it’s very difficult to turn your back on your classroom and most teachers are innately helpers. All that being said, I am not even close to being a spokesperson for the DCTA or anyone working in the district. This is just what I know from my own conversations within the industry, following the news, and looking at artifacts.
PorchDrinking: What do you want our readers to take away from your brewery in regards to teachers and education?
Bruns: Most importantly we want teachers to know that we care and we understand and that we want to support them in the best ways that our brewery can. We are here to support our local community, especially education. We grew up in a small community, so we are aware of its importance and we know how valuable it is to develop and sustain those kinds of relationships.
How You Can Help
Factotum Brewhouse has hosted a couple of fundraising events for the DPS teachers strike and will continue to do so as the strike proceedings unfold. At the event, each full pour of beer that is purchased receives a chip. That chip is good for a FREE $5-7 beer, to support teachers on a budget, OR a $1 donation to DCTA. Local small businesses have also donated discount coupons to be handed out during these events, including food trucks onsite. People are encourage to contact the brewery if they would like to contribute to the event with donations or discount offers for DPS staff and attend the fundraiser events:
Laura Bruns – [email protected]
All photos courtesy of Factotum Brewhouse.