So much for professionalism. So much for setting an example for the schoolchildren of Nevada.
Wednesday’s meeting of the Clark County School Board was going to be unpleasant, even if the red shirts of the Clark County Education Association hadn’t bothered showing up. In the aftermath of an arbitrator’s ruling in favor of the union, which awarded teachers pay raises the school district can’t afford, trustees had no choice but to adopt a budget for the 2012-13 school year that eliminates more than 1,000 jobs.
The union knew this was coming. In fact, it openly declared its preference for such an outcome by demanding raises that would require layoffs to balance a $2.062 billion spending plan. The pay freeze sought by the district would have saved those jobs.
But the red shirts showed up Wednesday to protest the layoffs anyway. As they did throughout their contract impasse, the union’s leaders asserted the school district was hiding money and could afford to preserve jobs and cover the pay raises. Apparently, math wasn’t their best subject.
So teachers and labor loyalists packed the School Board’s auditorium, where they chanted, groaned, yelled and booed. When trustees left the room after their pleas for order were ignored, one heckler shouted, “I guess we know who the cowards are.”
Another clever person used the old cough-and-curse trick to call out someone who suggested that, in fact, there weren’t enough tax dollars to prevent layoffs. Middle school students would be especially proud of that tactic.
School Board President Linda Young, a retired career educator, compared audience members to misbehaving children. They stood and yelled in response.
It must be noted that the more than 100 die-hard union members and supporters responsible for Wednesday’s have-it-both-ways display do not reflect the sentiments of the school district’s 18,000 teachers. Many aren’t members of the Clark County Education Association. Many resent the union’s politics and tactics. Certainly, a great many who rightly consider themselves educated professionals do not condone such juvenile displays of anarchy.
Peaceful protests serve a vital function in the marketplace of ideas. But the brazen intimidation of an elected body carrying out public business is never defensible. The union members who disrupted Wednesday’s School Board meeting are an embarrassment to themselves and public education.
There was more to Wednesday’s ruckus, of course. At one point, the mob chanted, “We’ll remember in November,” a threat to the trustees up for election this year. The School Board still supports its new superintendent, the reform-minded Dwight Jones. The union, meanwhile, made Mr. Jones the bogeyman of its contract dispute. The union’s highest priority today is to get rid of Mr. Jones, and it hopes this fall’s election will provide the first push.
Mr. Jones has been honest with the public about the school district’s shortcomings. He has raised expectations for students. He has demanded accountability. He wants better for our kids. The union, meanwhile, is concerned primarily with issues that have nothing to do with ensuring our kids can read, write and multiply.
Voters should pay close attention to their School Board elections this year. They should support candidates who back Mr. Jones, not those who will cave to boorish union antics.