Group attacks Sandoval's teacher salary cut proposals

CARSON CITY -- Gov. Brian Sandoval has shown "contempt" for public school teachers by proposing to cut their pay by 12 percent to 20 percent, the state teachers union leader said Thursday.

Lynn Warne, president of the 28,000-member Nevada State Education Association, said the annual starting pay of teachers -- now about $35,000 -- would drop to the $30,800 range in Clark County through the Republican governor's budget-cutting proposals.

"We feel an assault on education in this state," Warne told a joint Senate-Assembly budget committee hearing. "There is an assault on state workers as well."

Warne later explained that besides a 5 percent pay cut, teachers also would pay a 1.125 percent additional premium for retirement benefits and Sandoval also wants them to kick in 5.9 percent to help cover Public Employees Retirement System costs. That would bring every teacher's pay reduction to 12 percent.

In addition, she said the Sandoval budget does not include the 4 percent annual step increases teachers received before the recession, or the 4 percent premium they received if they acquired master's degrees. Older teachers also could receive 4 percent longevity pay increases.

She emphasized she made the "contempt" statement in response to a recent statement in which President Barack Obama said teachers are held in high esteem by people. In Nevada, she said teachers "don't feel respect but contempt" for how Sandoval is treating them as professionals.

Her comments came during a meeting in which Democrats said the governor's two-year pubic education budget really is about $1 billion short of the total education budget they approved in 2009.

But Mary-Sarah Kinner, Sandoval's spokeswoman said Sandoval has the "utmost respect for teachers and all public employees. These difficult times unfortunately require shared sacrifice."

While the governor proposes a $2.2 billion, two-year school budget, or about $200 million, or 9 percent, less than current state spending. Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said his education budget plan actually is $668 million less than what legislators approved in 2009.

Her figure includes the loss of federal stimulus and other funds and the cuts legislators made during a special session in February 2010.

On top of that, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said there is another $326 million hole in the Sandoval budget because county school districts have told legislators that they cannot spend bond reserves on operating costs -- as proposed by Sandoval -- without depleting their reserves.

Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer of the Clark County School District, said his district will have to lay off 2,500 teachers and 700 support personnel if Sandoval's plan wins approval.

The average class size would be increased by eight students and laid-off teachers would go on unemployment, he said.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.