COMMENTARY: CCSD's 'transparency' reveals raft of raises


For the last month, Clark County School District officials have sought to keep secret the district’s proposed contract with the Clark County Education Association until Trustees vote on it at Thursday’s board meeting.

On August 23, CCSD issued a press release proclaiming the tentative contract agreement. CCEA President Vikki Courtney hailed the pact as “a continuation of the growing collaboration between the district and CCEA.”

On that very day, the Nevada Policy Research Institute requested a copy of the agreement.

CCSD stalled. Chief of Staff Kirsten Searer refused to produce the document, writing that the agreement with the teachers union was still “tentative.”

After a Sept. 8th Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial scolded CCSD officials for obstructing transparency, CCSD put the contract on its website. That allowed CCSD Board of Trustees president Carolyn Edwards to argue in a letter-to-the-editor response that “[w]e were not able to release details of the tentative agreement until the association members ratified it on August 28.”

Except that on August 30, NPRI’s request for the agreement had produced a CCSD statement that “a public record is not readily available for inspection or copying. The District expects to have a further response to you no later than September 26, 2013.”

That September 26th date is significant: it’s the very day trustees plan to vote on the contract. CCSD officials didn’t want the public to see the contract until the very last minute — if even then.

To recap: On August 30, CCSD told NPRI that the contract wasn’t going to be available until September 26, because a “public record is not readily available for inspection or copying.”

Less than two weeks later, however, after the state’s largest newspaper highlighted the district’s stonewalling, Edwards — who’s currently being investigated by the Nevada Commission on Ethics — wants to laughably claim that CCSD works “every day to be transparent.” Then the proposed contract goes online. But not on the home page, of course.

Either CCSD officials erred in posting a confidential “tentative” agreement or CCSD officials violated Nevada’s Public Records Act by misrepresenting the availability of the contract in response to NPRI’s request.

This episode reveals why news professionals in Nevada consider CCSD the least transparent major government agency in Nevada.

Just a casual glance at the tentative agreement shows why CCSD worked so hard to keep it secret.

At the same time that CCSD claims it lacks the money to fix broken air conditioning systems, it’s preparing to hand teachers six different pay increases — none of which have anything to do with a teacher’s classroom performance. The tentative contract includes “step” pay increases, “column” pay increases for earning useless degrees and a 1 percent increase in the salary schedule.

Longevity pay would also bolt upward, giving teachers who’ve been teaching more than 26 years an additional $2,000, up from $1,100 a year ago. For teachers with 16 to 20 years in their jobs, longevity pay would increase from $550 to $1,000. In contrast, Clark County firefighters, more willing to save the public its tax dollars, have eliminated longevity pay for new hires.

One bright spot is on the health insurance front. For the last several years, CCEA has taken $15 from teachers every pay period and redirected it to the union-run Retiree Health Plan. For the upcoming year, that amount will drop to $1 a pay period. Many teachers don’t even realize the union has been taking $360 a year out of their checks for the RHP.

Restructuring district-provided health insurance would provide another pay increase for teachers. CCSD and CCEA are still negotiating specifics, but the agreement states that cost savings are “anticipated by the parties” and that CCEA-represented employees will receive 50 percent of the savings as an “economic enhancement.”

The tentative contract will also allow teachers to take leave with pay for “training for CCEA union business.” It even includes the notorious “evergreen” clause, ensuring the union has maximum leverage to negotiate an even heftier contract next year.

There is one silver lining to the dark cloud of this no-longer secret tentative agreement. It shows the public why spending more on education hasn’t and won’t increase student achievement.

Combining tens of millions of dollars in new legislative funding with “collaboration” has produced a familiar result: Taxpayers are about to be paying more for the same people, the same product, the same secrecy, the same results.

Victor Joecks is communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more visit http://npri.org.

 

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