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Clark County teachers vote to strike if low funding causes cuts

Updated May 12, 2019 - 7:23 pm

Teachers have voted to strike during the 2019-20 school year if the Clark County School District makes budget cuts as a result of a lack of state funding after the legislative session, union officials announced Sunday.

Such a strike would be illegal under Nevada law, and the Clark County Educators Association could face fines up to $50,000 per day if educators walked off the job.

About 5,000 teachers voted, authorizing the strike by a 78 percent margin, the union said Sunday.

The vote is part of a concerted public push by the education community for adequate education funding as members anxiously await the unveiling of a new state funding formula to change the way money is distributed to schools. With roughly three weeks left in the session, legislators have not yet publicly unveiled such a bill.

Yet even with a new funding formula, the issue of pumping more money into schools remains. Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who has been working on the bill, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in February that the proposal isn’t about raising more money — but rather how to allocate it. That bill, he said, is not looking to increase or decrease funding.

Meanwhile, the district says it cannot fund 3 percent employee raises even with the extra money Gov. Steve Sisolak has provided in the budget for that. Instead, the district has presented a balanced budget — using that money to cover other rising costs — without raises incorporated.

The district says it would need between $110 million to $120 million more to pay for such raises.

“CCSD educators have endured two years of salary freezes with fewer resources and in larger class sizes,” the union said in a press release Sunday. “The vote affirms the feeling of many educators that ‘enough is enough.’”

Association spokesman Keenan Korth and executive director John Vellardita did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

But if teachers do strike, they would be doing so amid an educator population that’s fractured between two unions.

CCEA disaffiliated from the statewide association and the National Education Association last year. Meanwhile, the Nevada State Education Association launched its own affiliate, the National Education Association of Southern Nevada, to compete for union membership in Clark County.

Chris Daly, deputy executive director of government relations for the other statewide educators union — the Nevada State Education Association — argued that ultimately only one in five Clark County educators voted to strike.

Daly noted that the nationwide teachers strikes have occurred with support from the local and national union affiliates.

But CCEA is standing on its own, he said.

“Clearly Mr. Vellardita is attempting to find a point of leverage to engage the session,” Daly said. “But the best way for educators to engage the state Legislature is through the state association.”

Vicki Kreidel, vice president of the Nevada Education Association of Southern Nevada, said she has been hearing concerns from teachers — including whether or not the association has a strike fund to financially support those educators who go on strike.

“The other thing that of course teachers are worried about is losing their job,” she said. “And so they want to know is CCEA prepared to support my family while I don’t have a job?”

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter. Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com o 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.

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