Clark County teachers are celebrating a labor relations board ruling that will make it easier for them to earn pay raises through educational advancement.
“It’s great news, because I’m spending $20,000 plus on books and all the time to go through this program,” said Gayle Moore, a Title I facilitator who is enrolling in a doctorate program this fall. “It would mean that I would have enough contact units by the time I completed my program to earn two pay increases, so it makes a huge difference to me.”
The local Employee-Management Relations Board ruled Wednesday in favor of the Clark County teachers union on an unfair labor complaint filed over changes that the district made to the new salary formula known as the Professional Growth System.
The ruling means the district’s thousands of teachers will not face more stringent requirements in order to qualify for salary bumps. In particular, they will still be able to receive 8 “contact units” — of the 225 needed to receive a pay raise — for every approved college course. Special education teachers in self-contained classrooms will also be able to earn pay increases every two years, instead of three.
“For them, this means that they can trust in the Professional Growth System again, the work that they’ve done so far,” Michelle Kim, attorney for the Clark County Education Association, said after the ruling was announced on Thursday. “They can feel a sense of security finally.”
Melinda Malone, a Clark County School District spokeswoman, said in a statement that the district has not received a written decision explaining the basis for the board’s decision.
“Once we have a formal decision we will review it,” she said.
The financial impact to the district — facing a shortfall for this year’s budget — remains unclear, although it would not occur until fiscal year 2019.
The district also has the option of filing a petition for judicial review within 30 days of the board’s written order.
“The District will continue to negotiate this issue with the Clark County Education Association,” Malone said. “We are currently in contract negotiations for the 2017-18 school year.”
Negotiated, presented, then changed
The new salary system, negotiated as part of the 2015-2017 teachers contract and introduced to teachers in August 2016, offered teachers numerous options to earn 225 units and increase their pay.
But in April, the Clark County School District reversed course and stipulated that all college coursework would only receive 5 credits and that special education teachers not serving in certain Title I classrooms would only be able to earn raises every three years.
The change, the district argued, aligned with the details that were originally in the contract between the teachers and the district.
“Nowhere in this agreement did anybody give (union executive director John) Vellardita or the superintendent the power to change the explicit terms of the (collective bargaining agreement),” said Scott Greenberg, attorney for the district.
The labor relations board, however, found that the district made a unilateral change to the salary system and that its arguments defending the decision were without merit. It ordered district officials to restore the original salary system as explained to teachers in August of last year.
Considered a work in progress
During the hearing on the complaint, the union indicated that the salary system was presented during contract negotiations as a work in progress that was going to be developed after discussions between the district and the union.
“The superintendent and myself had agreed in bargaining that there would be a process that the parties would each have a representative or representatives that would work out the details,” Vellardita, the union’s executive director, said in sworn testimony.
Union officials also testified that the subsequent change to the salary system was driven by the district’s chief negotiator, Eddie Goldman, and expressed concern that Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky was not at the hearing to testify.
Goldman said he alerted district officials that the superintendent did not have the authority to change the contract.
The district spokeswoman said Skorkowsky was out of town on a previously scheduled work trip during this week’s hearing.
Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at email@example.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.