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CCSD chief: No talk of special session to avert teacher strike

Updated August 22, 2019 - 11:14 pm

Clark County School District and teachers union officials did not discuss the possibility of a special session during a meeting with Gov. Steve Sisolak and top legislators this week, Superintendent Jesus Jara told the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday.

That means there will likely be no additional funding from the state Legislature to solve the contractual dispute between the district and the Clark County Education Association.

But both parties met in another bargaining session on Wednesday in an attempt to reach an agreement on a new two-year contract and avoid a potential teachers strike on Sept. 10. The union has promised to start organizing a strike if an acceptable contract is not reached by Friday.

The School Board met in closed session to discuss the contract on Thursday ahead of a public meeting at Liberty High School that featured a horde of angry teachers.

“We made a counteroffer yesterday, so I’m bringing it back to the board,” Jara said. “We’re hoping that after my board meeting — my closed session — today that we can come back to the table again.”

At the crux of the impasse are salary advancements for teachers who completed enough professional development activities to advance a column in the salary table, entitling them to a pay raise of over $5,000. The district estimates that roughly 2,600 teachers completed those activities for a raise this school year, which would cost $19 million.

But district officials told the Review-Journal that its current offer — which includes a 3 percent raise, a 2 percent step increase and a 4 percent increase in monthly health care contributions — is well above contractual requirements.

The current contract states that the district will save 70 percent of additional state funding — beyond the base minimum needed to keep schools running — for employee compensation and benefits for the Clark County Education Association. The district estimates that amount at $45 million, but argues that its current offer features $69 million in increases.

Meanwhile, the district is still working on a contingency plan to keep schools operating during a potential strike.

That includes a potential plan to move teachers or students between schools, Jara said, depending on how many teachers strike at each school.

“With our free and reduced lunch population, we have kids that you know they eat breakfast, lunch and supper with us,” he said. “So then what do we do for the families? So you know all these things are things that we’re working on.”

It’s unclear how many teachers may strike. But at least one principal has said that all the teachers at that school intend to show up for work, Jara noted.

“A high school principal said, ‘My teachers are committed. They’re going to come. They’re not going to leave the kids behind,’ ” Jara said.

The district also sent out a letter to employees telling them to stop using the district’s email system to organize or discuss a strike, he said.

John Vellardita, executive director of the teacher’s union, said there was some progress in negotiations on Wednesday but added that the union is sticking to its Friday deadline.

“I’m waiting to see whether or not something comes out of this meeting,” he said. “If something comes out that’s positive, we may have an announcement tomorrow.”

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

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