Las Vegas Sun

October 19, 2019

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School district, union reach agreement to avoid teachers strike

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Steve Marcus

Gov. Steve Sisolak, center, poses with Clark County Schools Superintendent Jesus Jara, left, and John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, during a news conference at CCSD headquarters Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019.

Updated Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019 | 7:45 p.m.

CCSD And Teachers Union Avoid Strike

John Vellardita, left, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, and Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara attend a news conference at CCSD headquarters Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019. The district and the teachers union announced a tentative agreement to avoid a strike. Launch slideshow »

The Clark County School District and the teachers union reached an agreement Wednesday to prevent what would have been the largest educator strike in Nevada history.

“Today we have avoided a strike, a strike that would have negatively impacted our students and our families that we’re all entrusted to serve,” Clark County School Board President Lola Brooks said.

The district agreed to all of the union’s demands, including a 3% pay increase for teachers, a 2% step increase and a 4% increase to CCSD’s contribution to monthly health insurance premiums. Most important, it also honored a 2016 agreement that would give all teachers who completed three years of professional development a $5,400 salary advancement.

“We have notified our leadership we have suspended all (strike) operations,” said John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, during a news conference at CCSD headquarters. “This chapter is over with, it’s about now making improvements in our classrooms so that all 320,000 kids can move forward with their education.”

The union had threatened to strike Sept. 10 if negotiations failed. In response, the district announced it would seek an injunction to block a walkout, even as both sides agreed to mediation.

The professional advancement was the last demand holding up the talks, as the district didn’t ask for those funds during the recently concluded Nevada legislative session. The 2019 Legislature earmarked about $69 million for pay raises and additional benefits for the district’s 18,000 educators, but the professional development funds weren’t included in the district’s request.

The district previously offered a one-time lump sum payment for those 2,400 teachers “if the district is able to find the funds at some point in the future.” But that offer was declared “dead on arrival” by the union.

Superintendent Jesus Jara said Wednesday that a closer look into the district’s finances revealed that revenue has been trending positively, which was a deciding factor in finalizing the deal. Funding professional development will cost $11 million to $15 million annually, said Jason Goudie, the district’s chief financial officer.

Jara added that while he was pleased with the agreement, he understands that there is still more work to be done, particularly on reducing class sizes.

“We will continue as an organization to stay disciplined in our efforts to make sure funding stays in the classroom,” he said.

Vellardita said the union will vote on the agreement soon. Jara said he also hopes to bring it to the School Board to be ratified.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, who late last week instructed the district to “figure it out” in a pointed message, expressed gratitude for the sides resolving their dispute. He attended the joint news conference announcing the deal.

“While today is good news, I also want to recommit to doing whatever we can to fix the larger systemic problem we face so we don’t have to end up back here again in two years,” Sisolak said.