Pink slips will go out to the first round of teachers within the "next month or so" if a contract isn’t settled with the local teachers union, Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones said Monday.
Employees won’t immediately be laid off, but the pink slips would mean they won’t have jobs the next school year. "I’m telling you, it’s getting close," said Jones, emphasizing that layoffs aren’t empty threats to make the union bend. The district’s 2011-12 budget must be balanced, and the unsettled contract has the district in the red for $39 million.
As the Clark County Education Association fights to protect pay raises for continued education and seniority, the district contends it needs teachers to take the same pay freeze other employee groups already have to balance its budget.
"Every other labor group has made concessions, outside of the teachers," Jones said during a meeting with the editorial board of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I’m not hurting you. I’m not taking money away from you. I’m just saying don’t take an increase."
Every week, the district falls deeper into a budgetary hole as it continues to pay raises to teachers. For that reason, the superintendent asked in early December that school principals plan for layoffs, totaling 1,000 teaching and licensed-staff positions. Each principal was told to cut zero to seven positions, depending on their school’s enrollment.
An arbitrator’s ruling on the teacher contract is expected soon, the sooner the better for the district. State law requires the district to submit a balanced budget in April.
"I don’t know if I can wait until April to send out the first pink slips," Jones said. "It’s a lose-lose for me."
No matter which side the arbitrator finds for, teachers will suffer, he said. If the district wins, teachers may have to pay back the raises implemented this year. If the union wins, the district would cut at least 1,000 positions.
"I wasn’t kidding about that," Jones said in reference to union leaders’ claims.
Union President Ruben Murillo couldn’t be reached for comment, but a statement addressing the negotiations was posted on the CCEA website, www.ccea-nv.org.
"In an attempt to strengthen its position, the district went straight to teachers using the threat of layoffs to cause fear and intimidation, all the while still hiring teachers," according to the statement from Murillo.
"I hope the community is not buying the smoke and mirrors," Jones said.
Jones said the district hasn’t increased teacher staffing this year but has replaced those who retired or left. Otherwise, substitutes would have had to fill those jobs.
"I guarantee those people who are yelling and screaming wouldn’t want that for their kids," Jones said.
Even if an arbitrator’s decision settles this year’s contract through layoffs or a pay freeze, the district needs another $38 million in concessions from teachers in 2012-13 to balance that budget.
"I can’t expect they’ll (teachers union officials) work with me to do that," Jones said, referring to the union’s stance this year on a pay freeze. "Over the summer, if everything stays the same, we could have substantial teacher cuts that happen before the next school year."
He said teachers, the largest group among the district’s workforce, would have to be cut — not administrators, service employees or members of the district’s police force — for one reason.
"At the end of the day, the other folks have made the concessions," Jones said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0279.