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CCEA calling for a strike … eventually

The Clark County Education Association is so upset about education funding that it’s asking teachers to approve a strike — next August. Yes, that strategy is as foolhardy as it sounds.

For months, the union has been laying the groundwork for a strike. In March, it asked teachers if they’d be willing to walk off the job if lawmakers don’t pony up more money for public schools. On Saturday, it held a rally for the cause.

On Tuesday, the union emailed teachers seeking strike authorization. Eventually.

“Starting next week, we’ll be holding an online strike vote,” Vikki Courtney and Theo Small, CCEA’s president and vice president, respectively, wrote. “CCEA members will decide whether to authorize a strike at the beginning of the next school year if CCSD is indeed forced to make budget cuts because they do not receive the resources our schools need.”

Laughably bad would be a charitable description of the union’s plan. Strikes can work because they create a crisis that demands an immediate solution. Parents, aka voters, need to go to work. When they can’t drop their children off at school, it’s a problem. Union leaders can’t get voted out of office, so the pressure is on politicians to give in, even if a new contract creates long-term budget problems.

State legislators will be setting Nevada’s two-year budget over the next four weeks. Proclaiming there could be a strike in four months won’t create any sense of urgency.

Part of the reason for the union’s delay is the school calendar. The Clark County school year ends on May 23. The Legislature will likely vote on Nevada’s education budget on or after May 29. The union can’t threaten a teacher walkout immediately after the budget passes.

The problem for the union is that a strike in August is likely to fail miserably.

It’s unlikely the CCEA will be able to shut down schools. Around 45 percent of teachers aren’t even members. Assuming the district hires as many new teachers as last year, about 8 percent of teachers will be new.

The political incentives are all wrong, too. Democrats have unified control of state government, so the public would rightfully blame them for the strike. Democrats would need a tax hike to fund the union’s demands. But they lack a two-thirds majority in the state Senate, which the constitution requires to raise taxes.

But why would Republicans get Democrats out of a political jam by voting for a policy they oppose? That’d be especially true after Democrats spent this legislative session rolling back the education and other reforms Republicans passed in 2015.

The most foolhardy part of the union’s plan is that strikes are illegal under Nevada law. The union is giving the district four months to prepare its response, which could include decertifying the union or getting an injunction to pre-empt the strike. Superintendent Jesus Jara and the School Board should move immediately to decertify the union. That’s an option now that the union has disavowed its pledge not to strike.

A teacher strike was always unlikely. But by announcing it won’t happen until August, the CCEA just called its own bluff.

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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