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October 23, 2016

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Teachers union: Despite layoffs, no deals on salary or benefit cuts

Monday at the Legislature

Nevada Assembly Democrats, from left, Speaker John Oceguera, Debbie Smith, Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Marcus Conklin, talk on the Assembly floor Monday, June 6, 2011, at the Legislature in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

CARSON CITY - The Clark County teachers union said Monday it won’t agree to salary and benefit concessions even if it means teachers are laid off due to state budget cuts.

The budget passed by the Nevada Legislature and likely to be signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval calls for teachers to take a 7.5 percent pay cut. Under that scenario, Clark County School District officials said they could limit layoffs to a few hundred employees.

But if the Clark County Education Association and other employee unions don’t agree to concessions, it will lead to more teacher layoffs and larger class sizes than Sandoval and Democrats advertised.

The tension over the budget and upcoming employee union talks highlights this fact: Even though the budget numbers became final when the session ended at 1 a.m. Tuesday, the full impact of the budget passed by the Legislature won't be known for months.

Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association, said teachers have been asked to sacrifice over the past three years and face even more difficult working conditions.

"Our members would rather us protect salaries and benefits, even if it might mean layoffs," said Murillo, who was at the Legislature Monday. "We hope the parents are behind the teachers."

He said the union is about to go into "full bore" contract negotiations with the Clark County School District.

Much of the Legislature has focused on the budget.

The governor, Democrats and most Republican lawmakers agreed to a deal that extended taxes passed in 2009.

Republicans, including Sandoval, said further cuts would be untenable. Democrats said extending about $620 million in taxes was the best they could do to mitigate the economy’s toll on state spending.

But how those decisions will affect everything from higher education to K-12 schools is murky at best.

While contracts still have to be negotiated in school districts, the Board of Regents will have to decide the higher education tuition and cuts.

Chancellor Dan Klaich has said that for college and university students the cuts would mean a 13 percent tuition increase, some layoffs of staff and a pay cut. But the final decisions rest with the elected Board of Regents.

For the school districts, the budget can recommend pay cuts for teachers, administrators and other school district employees, and reduce funding accordingly. But ultimately the effect on those involved depends on union negotiations and whether employees make concessions or not.

The budget approved by lawmakers has a 2.5 percent cut for school district personnel. It also figures higher pension payments by employees equal to about a 5 percent salary reduction.

But Murillo said, "at this point, we're not agreeing to any cuts. We want to see where money falls."

He said Clark County teachers have had no layoffs yet, but agreed last year to suspend some scheduled pay increases.

"Teachers have been sharing sacrifice with increased classes, less money for textbooks and materials, which meant more money out of their pockets," he said. "Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions."

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