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Clark County School District files for injunction to prevent strike

Updated August 26, 2019 - 9:59 pm

The Clark County School District filed for an injunction in court on Monday to stop what the district called a “crippling strike” that the teachers union has threatened for Sept. 10 amid stalled contract negotiations.

It’s the next step the district can take to double down against the threat of a strike, signaling that it is serious in ensuring teachers comply with the law.

The two sides were scheduled to meet again Monday evening to see if they can bridge the divide over what has emerged as the key issue: a raise tied to advancement through the district’s professional growth system.

Strikes for public employees are illegal in Nevada, and state law allows the district to file an injunction with the court. The union might also face other repercussions, including a fine of up to $50,000 per day for the organization and the loss of the union’s title as the recognized bargaining agent for teachers.

In a statement, the Clark County Education Association said it will not be stopped in its efforts to force the district to pay educators what they have rightfully earned.

The union said it has agreed to mediation, but the strike date of Sept. 10 still stands.

“During negotiations today CCSD continued to bargain in bad faith by proposing to abolish the entire compensation system for 18,800 educators,” the union said. “Under Superintendent Jara the District is now sending a clear message that he does not value educators. Schools without teachers are not schools.”

Superintendent Jesus Jara told parents the district is continuing to work on a contingency plan to keep schools open even if a strike starts on Sept. 10. He said he is working with principals to finalize a contingency plan at every school.

“We are currently looking at all personnel to ensure classroom coverage, anticipating substitute needs and addressing the implications for the safety of all our students,” Jara said in an email.

“There will be challenges in the days ahead if this strike becomes a reality,” the message continued. “However, we will work together to find a successful outcome.”

The union has threatened to strike if it does not reach an acceptable new 2019-21 contract by the strike deadline. A key issue between both parties is salary increases for teachers who completed enough professional development activities to qualify for a column advancement on the salary table — which would amount to a raise of over $5,000.

The district maintained that only roughly 10 percent of the teaching force benefits from this raise, or roughly 2,000. The district previously gave an estimate of roughly 2,600 teachers who qualified.

Over the weekend, the leadership reviewed the district’s finances, according to the district.

“We are looking at every department, every function, to see if there’s a way to find the resources,” Jara said in a statement. “No line item will be overlooked during this very thorough review process.”

Students and staff, meanwhile, showed their support for teachers at a rally before the bell rang at Spring Valley High School.

The district has offered teachers a 3 percent raise, plus a seniority-based raise through step increases for 2019-20 and 2020-21. The district’s offer also increases monthly health care contributions by 4 percent each year.

The district has verbally made the same offer to the administrators and support staff unions and has discussed the same financial proposal with the police administrators and police officers bargaining groups.

The district is under increased pressure from lawmakers to find a solution to the issue. Last week, Gov. Steve Sisolak criticized the district for not accounting for such raises in its budget requests to the Legislature, saying that the district created this mess and “now they have to fix it.”

Both Sisolak and Jara were at an event honoring this year’s Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, but Jara left without taking questions from the news media. Sisolak echoed some of his previous comments and said he had talked with the superintendent Monday morning.

“We’ve got 13 more days to get this done,” Sisolak said. “And as I said all along, the strike is not an option.”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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