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School District, teachers union at an impasse

Updated Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011 | 6:08 p.m.

Teachers union negotiations break down

KSNV coverage of breakdown in contract negotiations between the Clark County School District and the teachers union, Aug. 10, 2011.

At least 500 teacher positions hang in the balance as contract negotiations between the Clark County School District and its teachers union broke down Wednesday, likely sending the matter to arbitration.

The Clark County Education Association declared an impasse Wednesday night after it couldn’t broker an agreement with the School District during its four scheduled meetings. Formal negotiations began in July.

State law requires the district to have at least four meetings with each of its four unions, which represent administrators, support staff, police and teachers, before an impasse can be declared. If no compromise is reached, the matter may go to arbitration, where a judge decides the outcome of contract negotiations.

The School District is seeking $37 million in concessions from the teachers union to balance its budget. The district’s proposed concessions include freezing step increases, having employees pay half of a Public Employees’ Retirement System rate increase and replacing the nonprofit Teachers Health Trust and Retiree Health Trust with a for-profit carrier, according to the union. (In July, the School District lowered salaries by 1.125 percent to pay for the pension rate increase.)

The district warned in late June that 800 teacher positions might be eliminated in September if union concessions weren’t reached. The cuts would be on top of about 600 central office positions already slated for elimination.

“We are very disappointed the Clark County School District is seeking to balance their budget at the expense of those who spend their lives educating the children of Nevada,” union President Ruben Murillo said in a statement. “The parties will now prepare for interest arbitration.”

The School District, which usually doesn't comment on ongoing negotiations and arbitrations, issued a statement Thursday afternoon titled "Negotiations require shared sacrifice."

The statement from the district's chief negotiator, Edward Goldman, criticized the union for refusing to make concessions "in spite of ample evidence of a bleak economy and a decreased K-12 budget."

"We have to cut a total of $150 million from this year's budget, and the concessions we're asking from the teachers total less than one-fourth of that amount," Goldman said. "We have made cuts throughout the district to reduce the concessions teachers must make."

The district faces two options to balance its budget: Head into arbitration to resolve contract negotiations or eliminate 800 teacher positions, according to a district spokesman.

If the matter goes to arbitration, it may take until November for the arbitrator’s decision to be made, Murillo said Thursday. In the meantime, teachers will continue to work.

“Our teachers are under extreme pressure,” he said. “Working conditions are very difficult now.”

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