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Union asks Clark County teachers if they’d support illegal strike

The Clark County teachers union is asking members how far they’d be willing to go to fight for adequate education funding in Nevada — including if they’d support an illegal strike — as the fourth week of the legislative session ends with no bills introduced to address the state’s education funding formula.

The informal poll by the Clark County Education Association asks teachers what they will be willing to do if lawmakers do not “fund our schools now” — the union’s campaign slogan to push for more money.

One of the options offered in the online poll is to “hold a strike,” which would be illegal under state law.

“Educators in Nevada do not legally have the right to strike,” the union conceded in an email directing teachers to the poll. “But educators in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona and Kentucky walked out and struck as well. And what happened? THEY WON!”

The other options offered are “do nothing” and “participate in a districtwide, daylong picket in front of school with parents and students.”

Union Executive Director John Vallardita could not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Numerous education-related bills have been introduced this legislative session that could require additional funding, including measures to require a chief pest management coordinator and mandate that career and technical education programs include business and marketing classes.

But lawmakers have yet to address the elephant in the room: the push to change the state’s funding formula, which dates to 1967.

Proponents of the change argue that the old formula does not account for the increased costs of educating today’s special populations — including students in poverty and English-language learners. They also point to ratings that rank Nevada’s education funding level as among the worst in the nation.

The union has thrown its weight behind AB 277, a bill that would require districts to incorporate teacher pay raises of at least 3 percent each year. The bill would require districts to reserve that money to ensure those raises are funded.

It’s an idea Gov. Steve Sisolak has also incorporated in his proposed budget.

The Clark County School District, however, is stressing that it can’t afford salary increases if they are passed as unfunded mandates. The district’s tentative budget for next school year does not incorporate such increases.

In a letter to the School Board, Superintendent Jesus Jara said he’ll work with Sisolak and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to identify potential solutions.

“Law requires that I present you with a balanced budget,” he said in the letter, “and salary increases would require either new funding or cuts to existing services that deserve serious public discussion.”

In a statement, the district said it remains hopeful that legislators will introduce a bill to update the funding formula — something Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, have been working on.

The deadline to introduce legislation has passed, but there are several mechanisms that could allow such a bill to be considered, including designating it as “emergency” measure.

Officials with the Nevada State Education Association, which is battling with the CCEA to represent Clark County teachers, argue that staging a successful strike would require the support at local, state and national levels. The CCEA, they say, is ill-equipped to lead such an effort after disaffiliating itself from NSEA and its national parent, the National Education Association.

And Ruben Murillo, president of the NSEA, said his organization also worries about the lack of an identified funding source to increase pay or reduce class sizes.

“We’re concerned as to how that’s going to play out when you have students in every county in Nevada needing additional resources,” he said.

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

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