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Nonlicensed workers still not ready to give up fighting cuts

Clark County School District’s support staff aren’t in a giving mood.

Last year, the Education Support Employees Association agreed to give up longevity-based pay raises to save the financially pressed district about $10 million.

This year, as the call for shared sacrifice in economic hard times is again sounded by state and district officials, union President John Carr is saying enough.

“You can’t balance the budget on the bottom part of the school district anymore,” says Carr, whose group negotiates for the district’s 11,165 trade workers, bus drivers, food service employees and other nonlicensed personnel.

“We’re not going to give up anything,” Carr says.

The district faces a shortfall of $407 million in 2011-12, even with the recently announced influx of new state revenue it will receive.

School District officials are asking all employee bargaining groups for an 8 percent or more cut in pay and benefits, which is subject to negotiation.

The proposed 5 percent salary reductions, which would be achieved through unpaid furlough days, would save the district $73.4 million.

The problem, Carr said, is that by asking the district’s lowest paid employees to take significant wage reductions, you’re pushing them into poverty.

Eight percent from the paycheck of someone who only makes $19,000 can be the difference between being able to buy groceries and having to go to a food bank, he says.

“I am my only support,” said Terri Shuman, a support staff employee who tests students at 48 schools for the district’s English Language Learners program.

Shuman lost her position as a permanent substitute teacher in the district last year, which means she’s getting about $600 a month less than she once did.

“I had to move,” Shuman says. “I had to start choosing which bills I was going to pay.”

She doesn’t want to think about her situation getting even worse, she says.

That’s why Shuman has turned into a regular participant of union-organized rallies protesting cuts to education funding that often take place now before Clark County School Board meetings.

At one April meeting, as district Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler explained that achieving savings through collective bargaining would ease cuts to education programs, his voice was almost drowned out by employee protesters chanting a mix of slogans and waving signs outside the Edward A. Greer Education Center.

“No more cuts! No more cuts!”

Contact Assistant City Editor Lisa Kim Bach at lbach@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0287.

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