Clark County teachers, at impasse, express discontent


A crowd of teachers sat through four hours of Thursday's Clark County School Board meeting, waiting to make a show of solidarity for just a couple minutes.

Several grumbled under their breath when the School Board unanimously supported a two-year contract with the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-technical Employees, a "win-win" for both sides, in the words of association executive director Stephen Augspurger.

Teachers, on the other hand, are at an impasse with the Clark County School District over a contract and contend that the administrators union got off easy.

Teachers say they are being forced to absorb too much of the $56 million hole in the district's budget.

Administrators and police have agreed to the district's requested concessions, saving the district about $3.5 million.

The unions for teachers and support staff, who represent the bulk of the district's workforce with about 29,000 employees, are being asked to make $37 million and $14.7 million in concessions, respectively.

Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo approached the speaker's podium to admonish the district Thursday night for its "anti-teacher" terms.

The 30 teachers present, dressed in red union shirts, rose in unison to support Murillo as he spoke.

The union declared an impasse earlier this month, meaning four negotiation meetings came and went without reaching an agreement and the union wanted terms to be up to a judge. Thursday didn't change that, and teachers demonstrated that they don't plan to back down.

"We will be back at every meeting until arbitration is settled," Murillo said.

The district is asking teachers to give up pay raises this year based on experience and education, to contribute half of the increase in payments to the Public Employees Retirement System, and to replace the Teachers Health Trust and Retiree Health Trust, which are not-for-profit and teacher-governed, with a for-profit carrier.

"There's no thrill like the thrill when a kid gets it," said John Collins, Rancho High School special education teacher. "You love it, and that's why you do it. But you don't take a vow of poverty."

Police and administrators have agreed to similar terms.

Like the others, support staff are also being asked to give up raises and pay half of the retirement increase.

"I'm begging you. You can't take any more because we don't have any more to give," said John Carr, Education Support Employees Association president, arguing that support workers are living with less.

He and other support workers stood with teachers when Murillo spoke.

State legislation also requires that seniority can't be the only deciding factor if layoffs occur. However, districts and unions are given the freedom to decide what else will be factored in.

The administrators union agreed that should layoffs occur, the first to go would be those who have twice been rated unsatisfactory, followed by those who have been suspended five days or more within the last two years. Seniority would be the last factor considered, meaning performance would matter more than years on the job.

This is also a sticking point for the teachers union.

The district has said 500 teachers would be laid off in September if teachers don't agree to the money-saving terms. Murillo said he had told the district to not hire new teachers if layoffs loomed around the corner. The district hired about 300 teachers this fall.

"They're playing with people's lives," he said.

Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.

 

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