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)

This story was originally published by Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering public education. Sign up for their newsletters here: ckbe.at/newsletters

Faced with a $65 million budget shortfall, the Denver school district plans to ask teachers to forgo some of the pay raises guaranteed by a hard-won union contract.

On Tuesday, Denver Public Schools sent a letter to the Denver Classroom Teachers Association requesting to reopen their three-year agreement, which the union and district signed after a three-day teacher strike last February.

“We are seeking to work collaboratively with the DCTA to find a solution that addresses the unprecedented revenue shortfall,” Superintendent Susana Cordova wrote in the letter.

Both sides must agree to any changes to the contract, which resulted in substantial raises for teachers this year. And there isn’t much time. By law, the Denver school board must approve a budget for the 2020-21 school year by June 30.

On Monday, district officials presented a proposal that showed eliminating teachers’ annual cost-of-living raises would save the district $7 million, while freezing step increases — or the pay raises teachers earn for notching another year of service — would save $9 million.

“We signed the contract with the intention of fully living up to it,” said Mark Ferrandino, the district’s deputy superintendent of operations, “and unfortunately, no one predicted a pandemic.”

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