Officials with the Clark County School District and the teachers union have tentatively agreed on the terms of a contract for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, averting a threatened strike on Sept. 10.
Superintendent Jesus Jara and top officials of the Clark County Education Association announced the deal at a 5 p.m. news conference at the district’s offices on Sahara Avenue that also was attended by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak.
“The effort, collectively … to get this deal done was critical for our 320,000 children,” Jara said.
The agreement includes a 3 percent salary raise; a step increase in the salary table in each year of the contract; a 4 percent increase in CCSD’s health care contribution in both years; as well as a column advancement for every employee who has completed their professional development requirements needed to advance one column on the salary table.
The contract also includes a provision to discuss a new Professional Growth System model in the future.
The professional development raises proved to be the most contentious point as contract talks turned heated last week, leading to threats of a strike. The district had previously offered a one-time payment for professional development raises, which the union declined.
On Wednesday, Jara declined to provide details on how those raises for approximately 2,500 teachers will be funded, saying only that the agreement represented a compromise and that the money will come from other district funds, including money saved from hiring freezes.
In a subsequent statement, the district said that since the initial budget it also has seen improvements in interest earnings and saved money by reallocating appropriate positions from the district budget to state or federal grants.
Union vote, ratification await
The district estimates the cost of the professional development raises to be in the range of $11 million to $15 million. Some of the teachers who initially applied for advancement may wind up not qualifying, according to district Chief Financial Officer John Goudie.
If all 2,500 teachers were to qualify, the total cost of the contract would be about $189 million, CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said.
Vellardita said he was pleased to reach an agreement that meets the needs of the more than 18,000 teachers in the district.
He added that union leadership had suspended operations to prepare for a strike, and thanked parents and students for their support.
“Change took place at the negotiating table,” Vellardita said, “as challenging and as difficult as it was.”
The tentative agreement must still be finalized before it heads to a union vote and ratification by the Clark County School Board. Jara said he hopes to bring it to the school board as soon as possible.
Jara said the deal for educators was fair, but that more work was needed to fund schools in the future.
“We will continue as an organization to stay disciplined in our efforts to make sure funding stays in the classroom,” Jara said.
Sisolak also spoke at the press conference, saying that it was a pleasure to be there at the time of the announcement given the contentious nature of the negotiations last week.
“I am grateful that both parties have reached an agreement that prevented what could have been a devastating result to our students,” Sisolak said, adding that the issues facing Nevada education go far beyond the specific issue resolved at Wednesday’s contract talks.
“At times, the issues facing our education system can seem insurmountable,” Sisolak said.
Earlier Wednesday, the Nevada Department of Education announced Sisolak had appointed five nominees to an 11-member Commission on School Funding that will steer the state to a new school funding formula.
Support union talks proceed
Meanwhile, the Educational Support Employees Association, which represents paraeducators, groundskeepers, school office workers and other CCSD employees, presented a positive update in its own talks with the district, indicating that an agreement may be near.
“(Tuesday) afternoon, we made great headway in finalizing an agreement that would be the largest win for education support professionals in quite some time,” ESEA president Virginia Mills said in a statement. “The district listened and addressed our concerns on a wide variety of economic issues; we thank our members for their involvement as well as the support we received from the district as we work towards finalizing an agreement for our members.”
According to a statement from the district, the $22.8 million offer currently on the table for ESEA members includes a 3 percent pay raise, a step increase, and a 4 percent additional contribution toward employee health insurance.
However, ESEA is also seeking additional unspecific economic components, according to a statement from the union, with further talks scheduled for Tuesday.