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November 26, 2015

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Nevada Wonk


Las Vegas teachers protest proposed education cuts


Leila Navidi

Harney Middle School teachers David Frobes, from left, a U.S. History teacher, Tom Figueroa, a math teacher, and Jeff Bagford, an algebra teacher stage a protest off school ground after walking out at 2:41 p.m. the end of their contractual workday Wednesday, April 27, 2011.

Teacher Walkout

Harney Middle School teachers stage a protest off school ground after walking out at 2:41 p.m., the end of their contractual workday Wednesday, April 27, 2011. Launch slideshow »

At 2:41 p.m. Wednesday, the front doors to Harney Middle School swung open and half a dozen teachers marched out.

They stopped quickly at their cars to grab signs, then took post just beyond school property to greet a stream of parents picking up their children.

Their signs listed names of local schools where fine arts programs have been slashed and equated funding and teachers with students' futures.

The teachers were protesting Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed cuts to education. It was a scene that played out across Las Vegas.

About 45 teachers at Cadwallader Middle School also protested. They got the idea from teachers at Miller and Greenspun middle schools, who have been walking out of classrooms every day at 2:41 p.m. for a few weeks.

The time is significant. At 2:41 p.m., teachers' contract hours end, meaning their official work day is over.

Normally, the teachers stay late to grade papers, tutor students or run extracurricular activities. Many reported regularly working 50 or 60 hour weeks, without overtime pay.

Not anymore.

"If we're not going to get pay increases or stable pay, we're only going to work from 7:30 a.m. to 2:41 p.m." as dictated by contract, Harney English teacher and girls' basketball coach Brandi Thomas said. "Obviously, working extra hours helps the kids, but this is for the kids, too."

The teachers worry that Sandoval's proposed education cuts will further decimate K-12 education. They said they've already seen it happen. Choir programs, language classes and extracurriculars have been shuttered. Support staff has been let go.

Clark County school officials expect cuts of up to $400 million if Sandoval's budget is approved.

"I work really hard for what I earn," Cadwallader geography teacher Brian Boothe said. "I'm not trying to earn $100,000 a year, but I want to be respected."

At Cadwallader, several students joined their teachers to protest. The teachers vowed to continue until education funding is restored.

Saturday, members of the Clark County Education Association will join parents, students and other union workers to rally for education at Cashman Field. They have a singular message for the Legislature: You can't cut public education funding and expect students to succeed.

A plan also is in the works for a district-wide teacher walk out Monday, the start of "Teacher Appreciation Week."

"We don't get paid for our overtime, and we're not looking for that," Thomas said. "We just want things to remain stable for the kids. The only way we're going to fix Nevada is these students."

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