District’s offer to teachers fair

The contract impasse between the Clark County School District and its teachers unions boils down to this: The district wants to let all teachers keep their jobs and the same take-home pay they received last year, while the union wants hundreds of recent hires laid off so the rest of its members can collect pay raises.

There is no middle ground when it comes to the school district’s finances. The Clark County School Board must authorize tens of millions of dollars in spending reductions in the next month. The board does not have the authority to raise taxes, and major spending reforms such as outsourcing some support staff functions will take at least a year to implement. So employee unions must make compensation concessions or suffer layoffs. Period.

Placing even more Nevadans among the ranks of the unemployed, when the state already leads the nation in joblessness and foreclosures, is a terrible prospect. And cutting teaching positions after a new school year begins will impact almost every classroom in the country’s fifth-largest system, just as students are settling into their studies.

That’s why the administration of Superintendent Dwight Jones has proposed balancing the district’s budget without teacher layoffs. Mr. Jones wants to freeze pay raises based on years of experience and graduate school credits, a measure teachers agreed to last year. Per state law, teachers would pay for half of an increase in the district’s pension contributions, but that expense could be offset if teachers agree to replace their costly, self-governed health trust with a cheaper, private-sector health insurance provider.

“It seems to me that in this economy, with people losing their jobs and losing their homes … that this is a fair and balanced approach,” Mr. Jones said Monday. He said he has the full backing of the School Board.

The teachers union has responded by walking away from the bargaining table and packing School Board meetings with members. It wants an unelected arbitrator to decide the issue.

Aside from insisting on reverting to an unsustainable pay structure, the union wants seniority to be the prime criterion in deciding layoffs. The district wants to keep all teachers on the payroll, but retain its top performers if layoffs become necessary.

Already, most teachers have realized pay raises because the labor impasse has forced the district to return to previous contract terms. The district can’t afford this.

The union, which did not return a Monday phone call seeking comment, is being completely unreasonable. Its demands can’t be justified. It needs to get back to the bargaining table. And get real.

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