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Nevada Gov. Sisolak urges CCSD to fix ‘mess,’ reach deal with teachers

Updated August 23, 2019 - 11:16 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislative leaders came down hard on Clark County School District leaders in a news conference Friday, arguing that the Legislature provided all the financial support the district requested during this year’s session.

Sisolak called it “astounding” that district leaders did not account for contractually obligated spending on a professional growth system for teachers in making their budget requests to the Legislatureand said they now need to solve the issue and avert a teacher strike.

“They created this mess,” said Sisolak, who enjoyed strong support from the union when he was running for office. “And now they have to fix it.”

Shortly after Sisolak’s remarks, the teachers union, the Clark County Education Association, announced that it would not yet begin mobilizing for the potential strike it has set for Sept. 10 — although it maintained its threat to do so if an acceptable contract isn’t reached.

The school district also issued a release after the governor’s news conference saying it had presented a new contract offer to the union on Friday.

The key issue in the deadlock is pay raises promised to some 2,600 educators who completed enough professional development to advance a column on the district’s teacher salary table. The district estimates that it would cost $19 million to pay those raises, while the union said it would cost approximately $15 million.

At the news conference in Las Vegas, Sisolak said the district came to legislators multiple times throughout this year’s legislative session with different estimates of how much funding it needed to offer raises and an increase in health care contributions promised by the governor. But he said the district did not request money to fund the professional development system.

“Now we come to find out that CCSD did not budget for contractually obligated professional development payments. It failed to include those requests during the legislative session,” he said. “The fact that they did this, they did not ensure this was accounted (for) in their budget, is astounding.”

Sisolak was joined at the briefing by state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, who echoed his sentiments and said they have been committed to providing funding for Nevada’s public education system.

“We asked them what they needed and we believe we gave them every single tool they needed to get through it,” Frierson said of the CCSD.

Afterward, John Vellardita, executive director of the teachers union, urged parents to contact the district and urged officials to find $15 million out of a $2.4 billion budget to prevent a strike.

“To suggest that somehow, the problem that we have now — which is a contract problem — is a result of a shortfall up in the legislative session is not true or accurate,” he said. “This is a budget issue that the district did not manage well.”

Meanwhile, the district said its most recent offer to the union included a one-time payment to all employees who qualify for the professional development raise if the district can find the funds and the parties commit to replace the current system, which was rolled out in 2016.

That one-time amount would be over $5,000 — the amount by which an educator’s salary increases by advancing a column on the salary table.

The district also repeated its claim that the current offer of $69 million in increases is well above the $45 million it is contractually obligated to provide. The current contract states that the district will reserve 70 percent of additional state funding beyond the base minimum it receives for employee compensation and benefits for the teachers union.

The district said it also is seeking mediation with the CCEA “to provide additional options in an effort to resolve this matter.”

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

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