Teachers union amps up strike talk, sets Sept. 10 date; district vows to keep schools open

Several attendees at the Clark County Education Association rally on April 27 held signs referencing a strike.
Several attendees at the Clark County Education Association rally on April 27 held signs referencing a strike.

Clark County Education Association has set a date for a possible teachers strike: Sept. 10.

The teachers union, which represents the more than 18,000 licensed teachers and personnel employed by Clark County School District, announced in an email to members Tuesday morning that mobilization efforts will begin Friday unless the district changes its current contract proposal and finds the additional money needed to fund teacher pay raises.

“We don’t take this lightly,” said CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita on Tuesday, “and it’s not a light switch we decided to turn on. This has been brewing.”

The union has given the district until Thursday to make changes to their proposed contract with the teachers. The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. on Thursday at Liberty High School. They will discuss contract negotiations in a closed session.

A rally will be held immediately before the meeting.

The school district last week announced the details of what it has proposed to all five of its professional unions, which includes CCEA, an administrators union, a support staff union, a police officers union and police administrators union. The district has proposed a 3 percent salary increase, a 4 percent increase in contributions to the medical plan, and “step increases” equivalent to a 2 percent pay increase.

The teachers union publicly rejected the proposal, calling it “unacceptable.”

Missing from the proposed contract for the teachers union is a clause honoring “column advancements,” salary increases for teachers who have invested their time and money in professional development designed to make them more effective in the classroom. The method and system for determining these column advancements was  agreed upon by the district and union. Bumping up a column works out to a $5,400 annual raise for a teacher, according to the union.

“The district has walked away from that commitment,” added Vellardita. “They knew they had the (financial) exposure three years ago.”

Approximately 2,500 teachers have submitted for column advancements.

Beyond the column advancement issue, the union head says the district also has not addressed last year’s pay freeze and the reduction in salaries related to Public Employees’ Retirement System costs.

CCEA contends the district proposal to teachers is the bare minimum of what could be offered and was guaranteed by the Legislature.

Vellardita said Tuesday he believes finding money to honor teacher salaries is “a matter of priorities” for the district and that a special legislative session might not be necessary, though he added he “would not rule one out.” CCEA has previously drawn compared the perennial plight of the state’s largest school district and the eagerness to fund a fancy football stadium.

Union actions in other states have ranged from “sickouts” to traditional walkouts and strikes. Vellardita said details on what a teacher teacher strike in Southern Nevada would look like can be expected via a formal announcement Friday morning, unless the district begins to meet their demands. Teacher strikes are illegal under Nevada state law and carry the threat of court-ordered fines charged to the union and punishment for participating teachers, however similar laws in other states have not dissuaded teachers from taking action.

When asked how confident he is in the district reopening negotiations and finding a solution, Vellardita responded: “Parents should prepare for Sept. 10. We’re trying to give everyone notice so they can make arrangements. That’s how I would answer that question.”

UPDATE: In the event of a strike “all CCSD schools will remain open during their regular bell schedules,” the district said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

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

The district’s statement said CCSD is making plans “to provide creative and thoughtful ways to engage students, if a strike does occur. The CCSD Human Resources office is working diligently to ensure they have an active pool of qualified substitute teachers available in case a decision is not reached. Additionally, CCSD is requesting the support and partnership of retired teachers, local universities and other philanthropic organizations to ensure our schools are staffed properly.”

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American 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 the 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 currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. 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 with her husband, two children and three mutts.


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