For 14 months, teachers in Denver have been negotiating with Denver Public Schools for more pay. On Saturday, the Denver Classroom Teachers Association said talks had broken off and they’ll walk on Monday.
Yes, it’s about money, many have told CNN. But it’s also about the uncertainty of living paycheck to paycheck. It’s about the necessity of taking on a second or third job. It’s about the untenability of carrying on this way much longer.
Here are some of their stories:
She’s one car breakdown away from living in a camper van
Katie McOwen has had to make some tough decisions when it comes to money.
At the end of this month, she’s giving up her one-bedroom apartment and will move into a friend’s basement. The move sacrifices some of her independence, but it affords her some wiggle room with her finances.
The sixth-grade math teacher at Place Bridge Academy in Denver said she makes about $50,000 per year. After paying $1,050 in rent, plus student loan payments, bills and other expenses, there’s not much left over. She also nannies during the summers to supplement income.
“I really am living paycheck to paycheck right now,” McOwen said. “If my car broke down or anything, I would be really hurting.”
McOwen is lucky that she doesn’t have to make car payments. She drives a 2000 Honda Accord, which just hit 310,000 miles. It works now, but she worries about the future.
“I know if something really happens, I will be in big, big trouble,” she said.
Why? Because she wouldn’t be able to go to work.
The 35-year-old is originally from West Virginia, the state that launched a teacher strike and inspired similar movements across the United States last year. Her mother and sisters, who also live in Denver, have talked about moving back east, or somewhere near there, to find a more affordable life.
“My option was to either move there or I’ve been contemplating moving into a camper van,” she said with a laugh. “I knew something was going to have to change. It was either to move completely out of Denver or to bunk with my friend.”
He drives Lyft after school and has multiple roommates
Sean Bowers shares a place with three people.
They split the $2,500 rent. He lives in the smallest room and pays $600.
Change is coming, though. Two of Bowers’ roommates are dating and they’ll be moving out in May.
That fact of life has Bowers trying to figure out what he’ll do. Splitting that much rent between two people is more than he can afford.
“We’re just at that time of our life and it’s getting harder and harder to find roommates,” said the high school physical education teacher. “All my friends are either married and don’t want to live with another random person, or I’m looking out for random people on Craigslist.”
If he opts to get a new place, he will have to pay yet another security deposit and the first month’s rent.
“I’ve had to take out loans before for just the security deposit and the first month’s rent because I don’t have that extra $800 to $1200 to throw down,” the 30-year-old said.
Bowers’ base salary is $42,000, but he does a lot outside of daytime hours to make extra money. He writes curriculum over the summer, runs a ninth-grade academy and he is the head track and field coach at North High School in Denver.
School and coaching duties mean that he’s in school from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the winter and spring. After all that, Bowers rolls into his other job as a Lyft driver.
He typically drives five to 10 hours a week with the goal of making an extra $100, he said.
“When you are teaching the lesson, when you are with the kids and when you see the chan