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July 4, 2015

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Teachers union refuses to support School District’s Race to the Top bid

The Clark County School District's bid for $40 million in federal funding may fall apart after the local teachers union declined to support its grant application.

Clark County is among nearly 900 school districts across the nation vying for $400 million in Race to the Top funds. The competitive grant program seeks to improve schools through federal recipes for education "reform," such as teacher evaluation systems and data-driven instruction.

The federal grant requires — among other conditions — that school districts receive support from the local teachers union. Applications may still be submitted without a union signature, but their chances of winning grant money is hurt.

In a letter sent last week, the Clark County Education Association, which is embroiled in a contract dispute with the district, informed Deputy Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky that the union will not be signing off on the grant application.

The union's executive director, John Vellardita — who could not be reached Tuesday night — raised several concerns about the district's Race to the Top proposal, which has not been made public.

Vellardita said in his letter that the language surrounding the teacher evaluation system emphasizes getting rid of teachers. He added that a large portion of the grant money will go toward outside vendors, such as consultants, and that he was also "deeply disappointed" the district did not engage the union in developing the grant application.

"Teachers and students need the resourcing opportunities that (the grant) holds," Vellardita said. "However, because the district has not engaged in any genuine attempts at collaboration, we will all miss an opportunity to improve teachers and learning in Clark County."

School District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson fired back on Tuesday, saying the district was appalled by the union's decision to forgo millions of dollars to help Las Vegas children. She accused the union of using the grant as a political retribution in the arbitration battle over teachers' contracts.

Fulkerson also rebuked several of Vellardita's statements.

Only 2.9 percent of the $40 million grant will go toward consultants providing professional development to English Language Learner specialists, Fulkerson said. Furthermore, blaming the district for a new teacher evaluation system is "ridiculous," she said," because state law and Nevada's No Child Left Behind waiver mandates its implementation by the 2013-14 school year.

"We're absolutely disappointed that the union leadership has chosen to play vendetta politics to block much-needed resources to the classroom," Fulkerson said. "The irony here is we — the district as well as the union leadership — would like to see more resources in the district. This money would have gone directly to classrooms to support teachers."

In a letter to Vellardita sent Tuesday, the School District said the Race to the Top grant would go a long way toward raising student achievement amid budget cuts.

The $40 million could have provided early childhood education, technology tools and literacy training for more than 41,000 students at 63 schools, according to Chief Student Services Officer Kim Wooden.

The district could have hired an additional 22 teachers, plus another 24 support staff members dedicated to individual student education plans, mainly for the district's burgeoning population of at-risk English Language Learners, she added.

"It is unfortunate that CCEA leadership chose not to participate in the formation of the grant," Wooden said. "It is even more disappointing that the association is effectively blocking the district from applying for $40 million … at a time when we all agree that we need more resources for education."

The district took particular exception to Vellardita's assertion that the School District failed to invite the union to discuss the grant application.

Wooden counted seven instances when the district reached out to the union between July and October, with a mixed record on union responses.

Although there were a few emails and phone calls in the two weeks after the School Board voted to pursue the grant in early September, district officials did not contact union representatives between Sept. 13 and Oct. 22, according to the district's letter. After over a month of no communication, Skorkowsky presented the district's grant proposal to Vellardita during a meeting on Oct. 22.

However, Wooden said union leaders did not attend several public meetings between late September and early October when district officials sought public input from students, staff, parents and community members about the grant application.

More than 6,000 people, including 1,616 teachers, attended these meetings, Wooden said. The feedback from some of the meetings approached a 90 percent approval rating, she added.

In light of this development, the School District is now looking at its options, Fulkerson said. The nation's fifth-largest school district can still submit its application before a new Nov. 2 deadline, although it is somewhat weakened without union support.

The federal government will use a minimum 170-point scale to judge its Race to the Top applicants. Support from the teachers union accounts for just 10 points, or about 6 percent of the total possible score.

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  1. Public Meetings ?? The School District calls that "reaching out?? The District came to them last week?? The District and the Union need to come to some terms. Of course, taking it to the press would really make the CCEA and the teachers look like the bad guys in this situation. Adding teachers? The District is still advertising for teachers outside the district after laying off and trying to hire back 1000 teachers last year. Our school started the year with eight long term subs. Your children aren't getting a premium education because our school district would rather destroy the teachers union in a pique of revenge. At one time we worked together. Now teachers and students pay for this ego driven, tyrannical p------ match.

  2. Teachers should be evaluated on their performance, not the performance of children on tests. Students are not all smart, all not all hardworking - by a long shot, do not all care about education, do not all do the work they need to do, do not all show up, etc. These evaluation systems have been shown to be absurd, with the same teachers engaging in the same instruction receiving wildly different student test results year by year. (Of course! Because they evaluate the students, not the teacher.)

    It's like handing every single patient a test on basic oral health and threatening to fire dentists whose patients don't pass, including the homeless, the poor, etc.

    What this is leading up to eventually is the firing of the most expensive teachers. It will lead to the remaking of our national teaching force into a bunch of temp workers, basically. This is what the rich who are behind "reform" are after: BIG EDUCATION PROFIT.

    Good for the CCEA. This is one of the reasons I have rejoined.

    If you live in this country and cannot see the takeover of both the government and the "fourth estate" - the media - by the uber-wealthy, then you are asleep. Life as we know it here is dead or on its way out, and those of you who absurdly blame teacher unions - and that includes the local and national press, generally speaking, at this point - will have been part of the problem, just as those Germans who went along with the Nazis were part of their atrocities.

    The best states and countries for education have unionized teacher forces. Why should the CCEA capitulate to demands that teacher evaluations be based on student test scores, or equally ridiculous policies?

    Those who give in to this fascist takeover of the public education system and the corruption of our government and our journalists are part of destroying this country. It is always easy for the rich to find sellouts and bullies who will do their bidding. There are some very scary high-powered people involved in creating education policy at this point, at the local, state, and national levels. But it is starting at the top.

    The two newspapers in this town remind me of the upcoming election: no choice; a micro-difference.

  3. Just more evidence that the teachers union is only interested in power and not the improved education of our children. The state should move to break it up.

  4. The school district had a chance to get FORTY MILLION DOLLARS!!! Union reps didn't even bother to show up to the public meetings when 1,616 teachers DID make the time, and 90% approval was given by those in attendance. It's time for the union to go - it's clearly a huge blockade to progress. At what point do the teachers realize that they don't HAVE to be a part of the union?

  5. Truly SAD

    Once again the Union Bosses are about themselfs and NOT ABOUT THE KIDS.

    Obama and many other Democrats have supported teacher evaluations.

    Potential $40 million lost to our Kids

    What is wrong with the teachers UNION BOSSES

  6. The current CCSD budget is over $2,000,000,000. The Race to the Top grant would be for $40,000,000 or 2% of the current budget. The money would pay for 22 teaching positions and 24 support staff positions. What happens to those positions when the grant money runs out? The rest of the money is spent on consultants and technology.

    These are comments made by Trustees when the board opted not to seek Race to the Top grants in July.

    "I just have real concerns. I already feel that we have so many mandates on us," School Board member Deanna Wright said. "No, let's keep on our course. Let someone else mud-wrestle for $6 million."

    School Board member Chris Garvey agreed: "Let's continue on our path. Look for money without a lot of strings on it."

    This is the link to the story in July.

    CCEA and CCSD are currently working with the Teacher and Leaders Council to develop the new evaluation system for teachers and administrators as mandated by the legislature last session. CCSD did NOT seek CCEA involvment prior to making the decision to apply for the grant, despite knowing some of the requirements and being aware of the union approval requirement. Do you think that it is just an accident that LA Unified Schools union also didn't sign off either?

  7. Stupid political games... The teacher union wrote the teacher evaluation bill...

    The union doesn't care about children, that is not their job. THeir job is to protect the jobs of adults in the school district... often at the expense of education quality.

  8. The teachers are being used as pawns by the district to get what they want. Then it will be business as usual. And when those sanctions are imposed on the district then the district will of course put it off on the teachers or more so the Unions.

    Here is my Question to Amanda Fulkerson.

    How do you put the kids on the path to the top when you are putting the teachers on a path to the bottom?
    I write this not as a teacher nor a member of the teachers union. Just looking at both sides of the argument.

  9. First of all, why is it that news sources have placed less priority in informing the People about up-coming events as these PUBLIC MEETINGS that affect our children/students? It appears that only "select" public participants were invited for "input." And of course, why are these "public meetings for input" scheduled during the busiest time of year for educators? Come on, have articles that inform the public about such important meetings AHEAD of them, so the People have an opportunity to attend and participate! Seriously.

    We get this remark, "However, Wooden said union leaders did not attend several public meetings between late September and early October when district officials sought public input from students, staff, parents and community members about the grant application."

    Going on to say, "More than 6,000 people, including 1,616 teachers, attended these meetings, Wooden said. The feedback from some of the meetings approached a 90 percent approval rating, she added."

    Just so folks know, and perhaps get a better perspective, Tuesday afternoon (October 30th) and early evening there was an CCEA event to inform and discuss the crafting of the new teacher evaluations over at the Teachers Health Trust Building. All the Nevada school districts are having to wrestle with crafting this new evaluation in order to comply with terms for the NCLB Waiver they recently received (Growth model now instituted). I left that meeting having a "feel" for what's coming, and understanding that it is currently "a work in progress/draft" and subject to discussion and debate. It will require having administrators who are qualified to evaluate, who have had serious full-time, in the trenches, teaching in a regular classroom. THAT, I am clear about.

    The proposed draft is a reasonable attempt to evaluate in both a fair and transparent manner, should the playing field be level. As an example, currently, some schools have large classes where there are no desks(or not enough textbooks) for students, which directly impacts learning and that subject teacher's ability to have students actively participating.

    Even though the school district has plenty of furniture and other materials idle due to reduced enrollment at some schools, somehow the idle furniture and other materials haven't made its/their way to the sites that need it, or the individual classroom spaces cannot accommodate safely more furniture. It is such problems that put bumps in that level playing field, which could possibly adversely affect a subject teacher's evaluation. So there are challenges that need addressing BEFORE implementing any new evaluation system. Everyone should have a say in this process.

    Blessings and Peace,

  10. @Patrick. If the teacher's unions wrote the bill on teacher evaluations, why is 50% of a teachers evaluation tied to student achievement? Don't you think that teacher's unions, if they were looking out only for adults, would not want that. What makes it even more difficult is that TWO THIRDS of the teachers in Nevada teach subjects that are not tested. So try again and convince me that the bill was written by the teacher unions.

  11. Although the story does not provide much detail it appears that CCSD, unlike many district in other states, chose to develop and write the RTtT proposal in-house with minimal or no community and stakeholder participation. Since the proposal reflects only those views it should come as no surprise that folks who have had no input would step back when asked to sign off. The District, under the current Board and Dwight Jones leadership, continues to mismanage the District.

    The RTtT proposal has not been made public and we, therefore, are unable to read and analyze it for ourselves. Several correspondents have immediately criticized CCEA for its decision to decline support. Those very same correspondents can usually be found on many other threads criticizing every public sector organization for sins ranging from incompetence to treason. In this case they have blamed CCEA without even a shred of evidence. Apparently they missed the lessons in critical thinking.

    Ms. Fulkerson's rapid and rabid responses might suggest, to a suspicious person, that CCSD prepared an inadequate proposal and is now looking for scapegoats for its failure to prep[are and deliver a proposal which has community and stakeholder support.

  12. This is just one more incident describing the failures of both the Teachers Union and the CCSD Administration to include the School Board. Keep in mind that the CCSD and School Board want the Taxpayers to throw more money their way this election. Do you really think that new Taxpayer Money will go for maintenance and repairs?

  13. I don't pretend to know all the minutia regarding this topic. What I do know is that the Teachers Union protects bad teachers. Not doing everything in their power to help secure Federal funding for Clark County students is shamefull.

  14. Clean up the district and the union, then come to the taxpayers and see what we want to do.
    I mean come on they can't agree on this one?

  15. If CCSD can't get it's own house in order, don't ask me for additional funding since I get the impression that throwing more money at the problem will not solve anything. From what looks like furniture that can be easily repaired, if defective at all, being thrown away without regard to the taxpayers, the district doesn't seem to be very good stewards of taxpayer money.

    Since this is a federal program that isn't effective, why not consider that the US Department of Education should be disbanded and all responsibility returned to the state.

  16. Citizens of Clark County have arrived at the final question regarding Clark Co. teachers: Are the teachers and their union the same thing?

    The union has demonstrated again that their agenda is money and nothing more. The union cares not about education, students, parents, taxpayers, the community or even individual teachers. Just money, money for salaries.

    There can be no other explanation for their actions in refusing to participate in the counties efforts to obtain a 40 million dollar grant. Not a loan, a grant and one that would have been spent on technology, equipment and new hires. But not a cent for higher salaries.

    So, are our teachers teachers first, or are they their union? 1,616 teachers attended meetings about the grant with a 90% approval from all the attendees but the union says they did not participate. Pure unadulterated balderdash. If a high percentage of teachers were in favor of the plan and the union turned it down then it is clear the union owns the teachers and they have no control of their own advocate. If the teachers did not support the grant then they are guilty of punishing our students, parents, families, community and their own by denying the help that could have been provided. And for what purpose? What was gained by turning the grant down?

    In the end the citizens, taxpayers and teachers of Clark County have to decide: Are the teachers their union, or are they our teachers? If teachers support their union then they are the same. If they stand on their own, take control of their paid advocate and demand it represent them and not its own interests, there may be hope.

    So teachers, it's time to stand and be counted. If not there is no reason for us to support you as you will have demonstrated yet again that you are your union and the only issue is money, money in your pocket; education, students, parents, families and the future be damned. This is the perfect example of I don't care about you as long as I get mine and if not, there will be hell to pay.

    You actions will be your decision and Clark County will once and for all know what direction to go... with your or without you.

  17. @texexnv. Can you explain what you mean by "union THUG mentality"? Are you refering to the position that CCEA has taken that they don't want to be bound by a unilateral decision by the CCSD board of Trustees that was made without input from CCEA? CCSD has known for six months that one of the requirements to have a successful grant was to work with CCEA and develop a proposal that both sides could live with.

    This is from the article about Trustees and CCSD deciding to apply for the grant in September. This was after the Trustees decided not to apply in July.

    "However, winning the grant hinges on gaining support from the local teachers union, especially on the creation of a new teacher evaluation system, another grant requirement. Meeting these grant requirements may be complicated by the School District's labor dispute over teachers' contracts." CCSD and CCEA are currently in arbitration over this year's contract. CCSD declared an impasse and sent the matter to arbitration.

    This is the link to the article.

    Just as a point of information, the new teacher and administrator evaluation system was mandated by the legislature during the last session. CCSD and members of CCEA have been meeting with the Teachers and Leaders Council to try to develop those evaluations for the past year. The difficulty is that the vast majority of teachers in Nevada teach subjects that aren't tested and how do you use non-existent scores as 50% of an evaluation?

  18. Ridiculous behavior AGAIN on the part of the teachers union and membership. Looks again like they are afraid of expecting PERFORMANCE from teachers and administrators.

  19. @BRASS. CCSD currently employees approximately 17,000 teachers. Of those 17,000 approximately 12,000 are members of CCEA. Who were the teachers that attended those meetings and when were they held? Were the people who attended from the schools that were going to be affected. If you ask me if I am going to support something that impacts my school or my children, of course I will support it.

    The issue is not the money, 40 Million is 2 % of the current school budget. CCSD spends 280 Million on 3100 administrators or 16.5 % of the budget on 8.5 % of the employees. The issue is the strings that are attached to the money, and how are the requirements of those strings going to be implimented fairly. What happens when the grant money is gone and CCSD has to pay the costs?

    This money will provide for 22 new teachers and 24 new support staff. The rest of the money will be spent on technology and consultants. So can you explain to me how this is an example of the union greed for money?

  20. Republicans should not support any tax increases unless there is significant real reform of government unions laws especially the arbitration process.

  21. Unions...ain't they great for our kids? I love you CCEA. Thanks for costing our kids $40M. I sure hope your fat cat leader gets a bonus for this. His $600K+ salary wasn't enough to compensate him for the damage he has done to this district. I say we fire all the union teachers and hire replacements. I am so sick of unions running this city like they are the mob. Off with their heads! Let's start with D. Taylor and all of his loser followers. They treat this man like he is a god, yet all he cares about is furthering his career and moving up the political ladder! Unions are a JOKE!!!

  22. I love how the Teachers and the Teachers' Union, when trying to curry favor with public opinion, always flash back to the line "It's about the kids".

    I'll give you 40 million reasons why they just proved it is NEVER about the kids and how it is ALWAYS about the self-serving agenda of the Union...

    Union FIRST, SECOND and THIRD...Kids only when needed for sympathy or political gains.

  23. @VegasNative. Who is D. Taylor? The current president of CCEA is Ruben Murrilo and he is paid just like any other teacher by the CCEA bylaws. I have been a member of CCEA for years and I have never heard of D. Taylor. I don't know where the 600K figure is coming from, but it is not correct. The Executive Director of CCEA, John Vellardita, has his salary capped at less than 150K according to the terms of his contract.

    Just to point out, that there was NO guarantee that CCSD would have gotten the grant. There is a total of 400 million available and over 600 school districts are expected to apply. The LA Unified Teachers union is not signing on the the LA application as well. Do you think that there may be a reason for that? They can still submit the application, but will lose points since CCEA didn't sign on.

    This is NOT money that goes to CCEA, it is money that goes to CCSD. The money is specifically earmarked for certain programs and uses. In June, the Trustees decided that they didn't want to apply for the grant. In September, the Trustees reversed that position, and decided to apply. One of the requirements was that CCSD had to change the evaluation system to reflect student performance on tests. CCSD never discussed the application before deciding to apply. It was a unilateral decision, hoping that CCEA would agree.

  24. 6,000 people in less than one month-- and ONLY 1616 were teachers?! Wooden should explain who these participants are, as this smacks of FICTION and the press should not report it without some corroboration or questioning. People who run school districts should at least know how to count. The district knew from the get go the union needed to be on board-- this is hardly a vendetta when the district made no attempt to solve the local contract problems first so that this wouldnt happen. Its not about money (althought teachers with degrees and even a few years of experience make less than 40k-- you'd be hard pressed to find a job with those requirements and workload in any other field that pays so little) its about having a seat at the table. CCSD is not serious about a dialogue with teachers,or they wouldnt be in this situation.

  25. Tanker 1975:

    I did, in detail. Suggest your reread. The article makes it obvious that the issue for the union was pay raises and nothing else.

    We have seen repeatedly over the last couple of years that the union will clearly choose pay raises over retention or new hires by their actions and words. When teachers continue to support this line of action by their union it lets us know they will even eat their own let alone actually act for quality of education, students or community.

  26. Shame, shame, shame on the school district AND the teachers' union for putting the students last in their childish, petulent conflict.
    This is one case where corporal punishment would seem very appropriate (and it should be provided by the students, parents and taxpayers).

  27. Unbelievable that so many of you speak about things you know nothing about, and loudly. Unbelievable that you think that if teachers are presented with an impossible task, not given the resources needed to carry it out, and then deemed ineffective, that is somehow...good for kids?

    Wow. What an ugly country this has become - and it will get worse. The rich will lead many of you to start eating your neighbors. Vilifying some of the most decent, hardest-working people in society, and trying to render them utterly powerless, would be very frightening even if it only came from the corrupt and the self-serving. But when so many of the average go along with this scapegoating blame game, it does not bode well for the future of this society.

  28. Yet another example of the top-down approach by the CCSD.... why anybody trusts anything that comes out of the Taj Mahal anymore is beyond me.

  29. @BRASS. The article clearly states that only 22 teachers and 24 support staff would be hired. The rest of the money would be used for technology and consultants. How is this a pay raise for the union? The pay scale for teachers is set in the contract with CCSD. Please explain to me how this is about pay raises.

  30. Legislature: ENABLE CCSD to DECERTIFY this union immediately. Restrict and refuse to negotiate with unionized "teachers."