Emboldened by the spate of teacher walkouts across the nation, some Clark County educators are threatening to stage their own protest.
“We’re never going to do anything cavalier or irresponsible,” John Vellardita, president of the Clark County Education Association, said last week. “We’re going to do everything … that’s available to us. That’s all I’ll comment on at this point.”
By “cavalier or irresponsible,” Mr. Vellardita is likely referring to a strike. Good. Such work actions — which could include “sickouts” — are illegal in Nevada. Penalties for violating the law are severe.
According to Bruce Snyder, the commissioner of the Nevada Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board, the union would face fines of up to $50,000 a day in the event of a strike. Its officers could also be fined or even jailed. Teachers who participate in an organized work stoppage face suspension or termination under state law.
In addition, a court could cancel any current union contract, a risky proposition for covered workers, as benefits and other perks would no longer apply and could be renegotiated.
Those seeking to lead teachers down this road would indeed be “cavalier and irresponsible.”
It’s also worth pointing out that Mr. Vellardita’s labor organization represents only a portion of those working for the district. In 2015, just 52.1 percent of all licensed personnel opted to pay dues for representation. Over the past decade, the union has been consistently losing members.
According to a 2017 USA Today report, the average Nevada teacher earns $53,706, which puts the state a respectable 25th among states when it comes to teacher pay. Nor does that number include benefits, particularly the state’s overly generous pension plan. Let’s also remember that lawmakers in 2015 passed the largest tax hike in state history — a $1.5 billion cornucopia of increases and new levies — to beef up education spending.
Lost in this controversy are the ramifications inherent in the current one-size-fits-all fixed salary schedule. Based primarily on years of experience and education, the system makes no allowance for performance and productivity or for areas of specialization. A physical education teacher will take home as much as a math or biology instructor if they have similar pedagogical degrees and years of service.
Such an approach — often justified as promoting camaraderie in the workplace — protects the mediocre or incompetent, fails to acknowledge the difficulties of attracting educators with expertise in hard-to-find subject areas and provides no incentive for quality teachers to remain in the field. In addition, it discourages top performers in college from entering the profession.
Only time will tell what avenue Mr. Vellardita and his union will ultimately select. But if local teachers are unhappy with their current compensation, perhaps it’s time they redirected their ire toward the antiquated, socialized pay structure that dominates public education.