Las Vegas Sun

October 22, 2019

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Clark County School District files for injunction to stop teacher strike

Teachers Rally At Liberty

Steve Marcus

Teachers and supporters in red shirts fill the sidewalk in front of Liberty High School in Henderson Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019.

Updated Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019 | 11:18 a.m.

The Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association have agreed to mediation in an effort to reach a contract agreement and avoid a potential teacher strike, the district announced Tuesday.

The news comes less than 24 hours after the district announced that it was filing a request for an injunction Monday to halt a strike, which could take place Sept. 10 if ongoing negotiations with the CCEA, the largest area teachers union, fail. The districts says the injunction is necessary to "maintain predictability" for students.

The union stalled strike preparations Friday, after having initially set that day as the deadline for reaching a favorable agreement to avoid a strike. Nonetheless, a strike remains on the table if the district does not budge on several key points of contention, union leaders said Monday.

If granted, an injunction would temporarily block CCEA from striking, potentially allowing the district and the union more time to negotiate. In a statement sent Monday, the district initially said the union had not agreed to mediation, forcing CCSD to seek legal action.

CCEA disputed that charge in a separate statement that evening. CCSD confirmed today that mediation will take place.

The union described the injunction as an attempt to stop a strike through court and vowed to challenge state law that bars public sector employees from striking, “up to the Nevada Supreme Court” if necessary.

The district has offered teachers a deal that meets some of their demands: A 3% pay increase, a 2% step increase and a 4% increase in health insurance contributions.

But union officials also want the district to honor a 2016 agreement that would give all teachers who completed three years of professional development a $5,400 salary advancement. CCSD says it offered the union a one-time lump sum payment, "if the district is able to find the funds at some point in the future," to those who participated in the professional development program.

CCEA rejected that offer, with executive director John Vellardita describing it as "dead on arrival," insulting and disrespectful.

Approximately 2,400 teachers took advantage of that professional development program, union officials say, having gone through professional development training in the last three years. Some teachers say they even paid for and earned additional degrees, only to be told they wouldn’t reap the promised financial benefits.

In Monday’s statement, district officials emphasized CCSD’s limited funds and existing $17 million budget shortfall for the 2019-2020 school year. Nonetheless, officials are reviewing the entire budget in search of additional financial resources to reach a compromise.

"We want to avert a strike by any means,” said Superintendent Jesus Jara.

It is unclear how many teachers would strike; there are approximately 11,000 teachers in the CCEA out of 18,778 in the district, as of last October.

With classes in full swing, Jara sent a message to parents Monday doubling down on the district’s promise to keep schools open in the event of a strike and to maintain a sense of normalcy as much as possible. The district hopes to beef up its substitute teacher pool and is waiving fingerprinting fees for any new substitutes. It currently has 4,066 substitute teachers and 500 applications “somewhere in the approval process,” a spokesperson said Friday.

On Tuesday, the district didn't mince words in its message for the union: "Enough with the scare tactics and political tug-of-war that only leaves the most vulnerable in the worst situation."

State leaders are urging CCSD and CCEA to reach an agreement to avoid a strike that they say would harm the economy and schools. At a press conference Friday, Gov. Steve Sisolak he was “really angry at the situation that we’re facing” and stressed that he allocated the district the money it requested during the 2019 legislative session.

Jara echoed some of those sentiments Monday, saying an injunction would protect the district’s “320,000 precious assets” — referring to students — and the community at large.

“It’s not the move we wanted, but in the interest of the families we serve, we had no other possible choice,” Jara said.