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November 18, 2018

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Teachers’ pay dispute with school district set for arbitration

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Paul Takahashi

Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo speaks at the School Board meeting on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2011. About 200 teachers union members wearing red attended the meeting; about two dozen of them spoke out against potential teacher layoffs.

After months of fruitless negotiations, the pay dispute between the Clark County School District and the teacher’s union is heading to an arbitrator.

The news was announced late last night by the Clark County Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers. The union has been locked in negotiations with school district officials over the details of a new employee contract since June.

Union President Vikki Courtney described the impasse.

“Plain and simple, the team doesn’t feel that the district respects that teachers are the priority,” she said. “It’s about compensating people fairly for what they do and not taking them for granted.”

The union demanded a $70 million contract that would, among other things, bump CCSD’s starting teacher salary up by $5,000 to about $40,000, increase pay across the board and restore step increases for veteran teachers and those pursuing higher degrees.

The district revealed its counteroffer Thursday, saying it had met many of those demands. District officials offered about $40 million in step increases and a starting salary of $40,000 as well as a previously agreed upon $9.8 million in added payments to the union’s Teachers Health Trust.

The $40 million package was $20 million more than the district’s last counteroffer, but it wasn’t enough, said Courtney. The union maintains it resisted the district’s $40 million offer partly because an ongoing shortage of full-time teachers is forcing educators to work longer hours and pick up the slack for the district’s legion of long-term substitutes.

“We’re just looking for fair compensation,” she said.

The dispute started after the district revealed this year that it couldn’t honor the existing staff contracts due to a budget shortfall of $67 million. Union officials claimed the district had $70 million to spare due to savings from unfilled teaching positions, but the district has said the money was already budgeted.

“The projected attrition funds from vacancies and substitute positions have already been built into the budget,” the district said in a statement Thursday. “Due to a budget shortfall this school year, CCSD had to identify funding cuts in areas such as school maintenance systems a Human Resources Information System and operations in order to offer the more than $39 million in increases.”

Both sides are in the process of selecting an arbitrator, after which a date will be set for a hearing. Arbitration doesn’t preclude both sides from entering into negotiations again, though there has been no sign that that will happen.

“We appreciate our teachers and the work they do to help our students reach academic success, and we understand their frustrations as CCSD and their bargaining unit negotiate for a fair and affordable contract,” the district said in a statement.

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