A teacher strike has yet to occur, but politicians are already trying to shift responsibility for what has gone wrong. That’s not a good sign.
Gov. Steve Sisolak held a press conference late Friday to assure the public that whatever happens, he isn’t to blame. He didn’t just push Clark County School Superintendent Jesus Jara under the bus. The governor metaphorically ordered every bus in the district fleet to run him over.
Jara is responsible for many things. Determining how much money the school district receives from state government isn’t one of them. That is Sisolak’s job, along with the Democrat-controlled Legislature. Sisolak wants the public to believe he provided the school district with ample funding, but he didn’t. His initial budget didn’t even provide enough for districts to pay for his much-ballyhooed 3 percent teacher raise. The Legislature added additional education money only after the school district raised a public stink about the shortfall.
Sisolak did provide the school district with more money. It just wasn’t enough to pay for step increases, an across-the-board increase, rising pension and health care costs and a column increase. If Sisolak had wanted the school district to provide column increases, he should have funded them.
Sisolak blame level: Medium.
The Clark County Education Association and its executive director John Vellardita have been the aggressors in this situation for several months. Vellardita threatened a strike midway through the legislative session. Yet he never made his demands clear. He previously threatened to have teachers strike if their pay was cut, if they didn’t receive raises or if class sizes went up. Now, he’s promising a strike if there isn’t column advancement. That pattern shows he’s looking for a pretext to strike, not trying to solve a problem.
Teachers are eligible for a column increase after completing a combination of classes and professional development requirements. It’s understandable why teachers who thought they’d earned this raise would be furious.
Vellardita, however, is being dishonest about the current contract. He’s accused the school district of breaking its word to teachers by not funding column advancement. The contract, however, guarantees column movement only for the past school year. It states that all raises, including column advancement, have to be negotiated this year and next year. It’s in Section 26-2-8 for teachers who want to read it for themselves.
Union blame level: High.
It’s not intuitive to defend the district. But the accusation that it somehow squandered money intended by the Legislature for column raises is baseless. Its biggest mistake was not raising more of a stink about wanting money for these raises, if only to cover its own backside, at the Legislature.
On Monday, Jara and the district wisely filed for a court injunction in hopes of heading off a strike. They want to work through the collective bargaining process. Ironically, that process favors unions, at least those with a little patience.
District blame level: Low.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.