Teachers, students, and supporters picket in front of East High School as Denver Public School teachers enter their first day of strikes on Feb. 11, 2019. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Far more Denver teachers returned to the classroom this fall than in previous years, a retention boost that district officials attribute to pay increases won after a teacher strike last year.

But because veteran teachers tend to make more money than new hires, the higher retention means the district is paying more in teacher salaries than it budgeted for this year.

Whereas the district originally projected teachers would get an average 11.7% raise this year, the average raise for returning teachers was actually 15.7%, according to Denver Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Jim Carpenter.

The district also underestimated the cost of salary increases teachers could earn for completing training courses. A new contract with the teachers union allows teachers to cash in completed courses for pay raises.

The difference between what the district budgeted for teacher pay this year and what it’s spending is about $11 million, Carpenter said. The Denver school board will be asked later this month to amend the district’s $1.1 billion budget to reflect the higher sum.

The $11 million, which is about 1% of the district’s total budget, will come out of reserves, Carpenter said.

Read more at chalkbeat.org.

Melanie Asmar has covered Denver Public Schools for Chalkbeat Colorado since 2015. Asmar previously worked at Westword newspaper in Denver and for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she covered education. Chalkbeat is a nonprofit...