Thursday, June 26, 2008 | 7:38 p.m.
The Clark County School Board called a brief recess in its meeting tonight so that the assembled audience - which includes the president and executive director of the teachers' union - could watch Gov. Jim Gibbons' speech.
Two televisions in the School Board's meeting chambers were turned on, and an audience of about 75 people listened intently.
Gibbons said the promised 4 percent cost-of-living increase for the state's public employees will cost $130 million annually. Teachers represent the largest group of recipients.
"And in a time when we're struggling to recruit and retain top-notch teachers for our children, it wouldn't be responsible to go back on our promise to them, and I can't in good conscience recommend doing that," Gibbons said. "Likewise, I could not support any attempt to reduce signing bonuses for teachers. It's a valuable recruiting tool and it should remain in place." There were a few nods of agreement, but otherwise the audience offered little outward reaction to Gibbons' remarks.
When it comes to education, there have been many other options put forward, as well," Gibbons continued. "We need to continue our commitment to education and we must protect the funding we have set aside for text books for our children. We must give them the tools they need to learn. I'm simply not willing to recommend that we break these promises to our teachers, our school children and our citizens."
Later this evening, the School Board is expected to go into a closed session and approve new agreements with the teachers' union and the school administrators' union. Both negotiated contracts, already ratified by the union memberships, include the 4 percent cost-of-living raise.
School Board trustees said they believed they had little choice but to approve the contracts as negotiated, even if the state rescinded funding for the raises.
Earlier this year Clark County Schools Superintendent Walt Rulffes announced he would forgo his 4 percent increase, a largely symbolic gesture intended to demonstrate his solidarity with the district's foot soldiers. Rulffes earns about $290,000 annually.