Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2019

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Teachers union sets tentative strike date; schools to stay open

Teacher's Union Rally in Downtown Las Vegas

Miranda Alam/Special to the Sun

Attendees hold up signs during a rally held in support of more education funding by the Clark County Education Association at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Court House in Las Vegas on Saturday, April 27, 2019.

Updated Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2019 | 4:35 p.m.

Teacher's Union Rally in Downtown Las Vegas

Attendees hold up signs during a rally held in support of more education funding by the Clark County Education Association at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Court House in Las Vegas on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Launch slideshow »

The largest teachers union in Clark County will strike Sept. 10 if it doesn’t reach an agreement with the Clark County School District by Friday, the union announced in an email to educators this morning.

The Clark County Education Association’s announcement comes in response to an offer from the district that the union says is “unacceptable.”

The district’s latest offer to educators includes a 3% pay raise, a 2% step increase and additional health insurance money as provided during the 2019 legislative session. The offer amounts to approximately $69 million in additional funding for employees, according to the district.

But it doesn’t include salary advancements for teachers who completed professional development, nor does it address other demands from the union, said CCEA executive director John Vellardita.

"They’re not giving us anything that was not already there,” he said.

The district says it is creating a "comprehensive contingency plan" in the "unfortunate" event of a strike to ensure that school remains in session. If a strike occurs, officials hope to fill teacher vacancies with substitute teachers, retired teachers and qualified individuals from local universities and other organizations, the district said in a press release today.

“No child will be turned away from our district. All doors will remain open, regardless of any decision by union leadership," Superintendent Jesus Jara said in a statement.

CCEA is asking for a 3% pay raise, a 2% step increase for eligible employees, a 4% increase in health insurance contributions and a salary advancement for teachers who went through professional development over the last three years. The union also wants the district to address a step payment freeze implemented last year and a .625% salary reduction announced this year associated with contributions to the Public Employment Retirement System of Nevada, Vellardita said

Facing a $35 million deficit over the next two years, the district says it can't accommodate all of those asks.

Since May, the union has pledged to strike this school year if district officials don’t meet their demands, which have broadly been to give teachers raises and maintain existing classroom resources. Negotiations have been ongoing throughout the summer and into the school year, which began Aug. 12.

The district recently turned its back on a promise it made three years ago to offer teachers a $5,400 salary advancement after having completed three years of professional development, Vellardita said. An estimated 2,500 teachers took advantage of that offer and were expecting to be compensated appropriately, he said.

“(District officials) are walking away from their end of the commitment,” Vellardita said.

Union leaders anticipate that they will receive an update from the district by Friday morning, following a meeting of the Clark County School Board of Trustees Thursday evening at which trustees plan to discuss ongoing contract negotiations.

“We’ll know that we either made significant progress or that there’s no progress,” Vellardita said. “We then will clearly start mobilizing for Sept. 10, and we’ll clearly give parents notice to prepare as well.”

The union plans to hold a rally 4:30 p.m. Thursday outside Liberty High School to drum up support for educators ahead of the Board of Trustees meeting at 5 p.m.

It is not clear at this time how many teachers would strike, Vellardita said. Approximately 3,900 of 5,000 union members voted in May to authorize a strike this fall if the district didn’t meet teachers’ demands.

It is illegal for public sector employees to strike in Nevada. The union could face fines of $50,000 a day as long as a strike went on, Vellardita said.

In the coming weeks, the district promises to "work tirelessly" to reach an agreement with educators. Until that occurs, CCSD will waive fingerprint costs for potential substitutes to speed up the hiring process.

"If the union leadership moves forward with a strike, please know we are committed to providing all children with safe buildings and quality instruction," Jara said.