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EDITORIAL: Reject proposed teacher contract

Nevada’s had its share of egregious union contracts over the years. The Clark County School District looks ready to add another entry to that list.

Tonight, district trustees will consider a new three-year contract with the Clark County Education Association. District and union officials have trumpeted the agreement as a breakthrough and a harbinger of labor peace.

That sounds nice, until you get to the details. The school district agrees to give teachers the raises they won in arbitration last year. That’s the only pay hike teachers will get this school year. The arbitrator also mandated higher district contributions to the failing Teachers Health Trust. That’s a compensation increase, but teachers won’t see in it in their paychecks.

The district was unlikely to win its appeal of the arbitrator’s decision, so the first year is fine. The next two years are the problem. The district agrees to determine the bare minimum it needs to keep the lights on for the next two years by January 2019. That doesn’t include employee raises. For any funding the district receives above that base amount, the teachers union gets 70 percent. The district must use that money “for increases in compensation and benefits for licensed employees.”

The district has had numerous financial problems in recent years. Giving the teachers union control over the district’s checkbook is going to make those problems worse. This contract can’t prevent the district’s other four unions from demanding and winning raises that exceed the remaining 30 percent of the district’s new revenues. The teachers union retains the ability to demand binding arbitration as well. This leaves the district with little financial flexibility in case of unexpected expenses, like rising utility prices or lawsuit settlements. It’s unclear if the district has the ability to increase its meager emergency reserve as part of its base expenses.

Those are the problems the district will face just keeping its finances afloat. There’s a whole other set of problems when it comes to increasing student achievement. The 70 percent to teachers is for increasing the salaries of existing teachers. Jara wants to hire more teachers to decrease class sizes. There are many problems with that approach, but it won’t even be an option. Jara and the board won’t have the money to hire more teachers if they approve this agreement.

Ideas like paying teachers more to work in underperforming schools are dead too. The district will have to seek the union’s permission to try “‘Pilot Projects’ that advance student achievement [and] educator recruitment.” Giving one union this veto power should even outrage liberals who are fans of trying to help students by pouring money into specific schools or programs.

Trustees should remember they represent students and taxpayers, both of whom this deal serves poorly, and reject this contract.

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