Teachers union warns school board: ‘We will keep our promises’ to strike

strike rally
CCEA members announce intention to strike if school funding is not adequately met during a rally at Durango High School on May 31. (Photo: Jeniffer Solis)

Clark County School District teachers will report to their classrooms on Monday for the first day of school, but its union says movement toward a call to strike could happen within the first month of the new school year.

Clark County Education Association is currently in negotiations with the district regarding an updated contract. The union is asking for a 3 percent raise promised by Gov. Steve Sisolak during his state of the state speech, a 2 percent “step increase” laid out in the union’s negotiated salary schedule, and additional money from the district for health benefits. Negotiators last met Tuesday but did not reach an agreement.

The School Board received a closed-door update on the negotiations Thursday.

During the subsequent open part of the meeting, CCEA President Vikki Courtney reminded trustees and district officials of the strike authorization approved in May and pressured them to push for a contract agreement that includes salary raises.

“When educators across Clark County open their first paycheck (of the new school year), I know they will be looking to see if the money they are expecting is in those paychecks. They’ll be looking because there was a promise made, and promises … should be kept.”

Courtney referenced an agreement made between the district and the union last year to work together to lobby the Legislature for additional funding.

“We did that work,” she continued. “We did it over and over. We did everything we promised. Thousands of us did that work. We lobbied. We emailed. We worked with (CCSD Superintendent Jesus) Jara like we said we would. We worked with the trustees. The money came down.”

After the close of the 2019 Legislature in June, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro boasted that Nevada Democrats had “passed the largest education budget in the state’s history.”

Still, CCSD announced a $17 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year, which begins Monday. Cuts fell to middle and high schools, whose principals were forced to cut $98 per pupil. How exactly individual schools balanced their budgets to accommodate those cuts is not yet widely known, but the union said Friday that they have identified no issues.

Courtney briefly acknowledged the budget shortfall and “issues” they caused, but she emphasized that educators kept up their end of the deal and deserved to see the fruits of their labor.

“When those paychecks come, educators are going to judge whether you kept their promises. If not, then educators have promised that they want to strike. And we will be returning to them with that question if those promises aren’t kept.”

In previous years, educators have gone almost the entire school year without a contract. Echoing Courtney’s comments, CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita told the Current Friday morning that wouldn’t be happening this year.

“These people are getting their first paycheck and they won’t have any (salary) adjustment,” he said. “They won’t get through the second pay period without a deal.”

Teachers are paid twice a month — once midmonth and once at the end of the month. That would set a possible next move toward a teachers strike in early September, just four weeks into the new school year.

But Vellardita says he is “cautiously optimistic” that the union can reach a deal before then. CCEA and CCSD are scheduled to resume negotiations early next week.

“The response we got from the district this morning (Friday) is they want to be back at the table.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was updated Friday morning to reflect new comments from CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita on a timeline for strike action and results of the audit of budget cuts recently made by middle and high schools.

April Corbin
Reporter | April Corbin is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. Most recently she covered local government for Las Vegas Sun. She has also been a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of its student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April serves as treasurer of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter and is an at-large member of the Asian American Journalists Association. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise. She lives with her boyfriend, his toddler, three mutts and five chickens. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, exploring Nevada and defending selfies.

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