Teachers’ contract

Some good news for taxpayers, parents and students: Last week an arbitrator sided with the Clark County School District over the local teachers union in their contract dispute, a decision that will allow the district to restore some teaching positions lost in last year’s arbitration debacle.

In 2012, a different arbitrator required the district to provide teachers with pay raises for years of service and professional development credits, even though the district lacked the funds to do so. The result was the loss of 1,015 teaching positions over the summer — and another round of pay raises for 2012-13 because those terms rolled into the current school year when contract talks again went nowhere.

The newest arbitration ruling rolls back the raises awarded in August, returning teacher salaries to 2011-12 levels. The estimated two-year savings of more than $38 million will allow the district to hire more than 400 new teachers. That should make a difference for a lot of struggling students.

The ruling underscores the importance of eliminating binding arbitration as the means of settling public employee contract disputes. Last year, the arbitrator emphasized the school district’s ability to pay. This year, the arbitrator put greater weight on the district’s requirement to provide a quality education. Those are judgments best left to our elected officials, who are accountable to voters, not a single, unelected person. The Legislature must change that this year.

But it’s also worth noting that the school district will not require teachers to reimburse the pay increases they’ve received for five months. It’s an extraordinary gesture of good faith. If the Clark County Education Association wins a future arbitration decision that results in pay raises, perhaps the union won’t require those increases to be retroactive, to return that good faith. Wouldn’t that be something?

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