Saturday, July 29, 2023 | 8:43 p.m.
Editor’s note: The Sun wasn’t selected by the Clark County Education Association to cover Saturday’s event at the Rio. Our reporter still attempted to attend, but was turned away by association officials at the door. Audio of the meeting was provided to the Sun by someone who attended.
The Clark County School District’s new school year will begin as scheduled on Aug. 7 uninterrupted by a teacher’s strike, but members of the teachers union said they will consider a “work action” if they don’t have a new contract with 18% raises over two years and other compensation adjustments by Aug. 26, the Clark County Education Association said Saturday.
CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said the union and district remain about $200 million to $250 million apart on an agreement after additional negotiations this week. The district recognizes it has to address the union’s key demands and funding sources, he said.
Those demands include the proposed 18% salary adjustments over two years — 10% this year and 8% in 2024 — along with $5,000 more for teachers at hard-to-staff, low-income schools; 5% more for special education teachers; increased instructional time at elementary schools to bring up reading and math proficiency; and increasing the pay rate for teachers at schools with extended hours that go longer than the typical contracted school day.
“I think there’s a recognition on the part of the school district (that) without doing that there is no path to an agreement,” Vellardita said during a news conference following a union-wide meeting at the Rio.
Vellardita said that until CCSD recognizes that to reach an agreement it has to use both the district’s share of the $2 billion more added in the state’s education bill passed last month and the $250 million set aside to match district-offered raises statewide, there will be no agreement. And if there is no agreement by Aug. 26, union members will vote to “engage in work actions.”
He did not define “work action.” A reporter asked Vellardita if that means ‘strike.’
“We’re calling it work action today,” he said to cheers from union members.
In a statement responding to the union’s event, CCSD said it was “encouraged that CCEA agrees with our philosophy to reward educators for their experience and education.”
That’s a reference to CCSD’s pitch to reset all teachers on a proposed new pay scale based on experience and college credits and degrees while leaving in place the current advancement system, which is based on internal professional development courses.
“School starts on Aug. 7, and as we have said before, we will all show up for our kids,” the district said. “We expect CCEA to honor the progress made in negotiations this week and not encourage sick-outs, ‘work actions,’ stoppages, or any other label that amounts to a strike.”
Vellardita said the demands are driven by a “vacancy crisis” in CCSD. Last week, district officials said CCSD has about 1,100 teacher openings. He alleged that the true number is higher because the district considers some vacancies filled with substitutes.
CCEA President Marie Neisess said even one student without a licensed teacher in front of them is unacceptable.
“Right now our educators are frustrated and they are worried about things they should not be having to worry about. They should not be wondering whether we will have a contract on Day 1. They should be focused on preparing for their students,” she said. “That’s what they’re here for, to provide either direct services, providing wraparound services or preparing their classrooms. But instead we are here because we are worried about what is happening in our district and the number of vacancies that we have in this district.”
Karl Byrd, a teacher at Knudson Middle School, said employee retention is key. Schools need continuity and cohesion, and students need to know there’s a teacher there for them every day.
Byrd said that he could have sold his preparation period – or taught, for additional pay, during the period that teachers work without students – every day last year to cover shortages. Selling preps, as it’s called, is a way to find substitutes among a building’s full-time staff.
“We talk about the social-emotional learning of our students. Think about the social-emotional things that teachers go through when they have to fill those spots,” Byrd said to cheers from colleagues.
CCSD and CCEA will continue negotiations on Aug. 17 and 18. The district also continues to negotiate with its support staff and two police unions. It announced a tentative agreement with its administrators union this week.