After delays, lawmakers release $56 million to fund educator raises at 7 districts
An interim legislative committee on Thursday approved about $56 million to fund additional raises for teachers and support staff at seven school districts, including three whose representatives returned before lawmakers for a second time after they faced application issues, questions on their plan for raises or tardiness at a previous December meeting.
The Washoe County School District, the state’s second biggest school district, requested the largest amount (more than $38 million) from a $250 million matching fund created during the 2023 legislative session under SB231. The raises funded through SB231 will be in addition to raises approved for educators over the biennium that were made possible through the historic $2.6 billion increase in K-12 education funding approved during the legislative session.
The Interim Finance Committee (IFC) — an interim group of lawmakers that makes state spending decisions while the Legislature is out of session — has previously approved a total of $18 million for six school districts including in Humboldt and Douglas counties.
“I’m just really pleased to see that we continue to have plans brought forward where employees are being offered substantial increases,” said Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannazzaro (D-Las Vegas) who was one of the bill’s sponsors and added that raises were “the whole point of what we were trying to accomplish this session.”
In December, the committee deferred on requests from the Clark, Churchill, Lander and Lyon County school districts. The meeting took place before the Clark County School District had finalized its contract negotiations with the bargaining unit for its teachers, the Clark County Education Association. But the district had settled a new contract with its support staff well before the December meeting.
Committee chair and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas) said the school districts were expected to turn in a plan for budget increases to provide salaries for both teachers and education support professionals, and that Clark County’s request was incomplete. Monroe-Moreno said the committee would also defer on a request from Lander County, which had not come to an agreement with its support staff, to be consistent with the Clark County decision.
The Churchill County School District’s request was rescheduled when district officials couldn’t make it to the meeting on time. The committee also held off on Lyon County’s request after it heard concerns over its distribution plans from its teachers union.
The committee allowed the Lander County School District to return on Thursday with the same, partial request: money for teacher raises while it continues negotiating with support staff.
Lander County Superintendent Russell Klein said he reached out to IFC last month after a tentative agreement with the district’s support staff fell apart and the union declared an impasse. He said he didn’t want additional raises for teachers to be held hostage during the arbitration process, and was thrilled to see IFC approve the district’s partial application on Thursday.
“It appears that there's a sentiment shift — that would be my opinion — that they kind of took a step back and said, ‘Our ultimate objective is get money in teachers’ pockets. So why are we blockaded here?’” Klein said in an interview after his request was approved.
The Lyon County School District also went before the committee for a second time on Thursday. Before the district’s presentation on its funding request, representatives from the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) and its affiliate, the Lyon County Education Association (LCEA), asked the committee to deny the request and claimed that the Lyon County School Board decided how to distribute the funds without input from the union.
“Simply put, LCEA has never been informed of the district's plan and we have never been offered the opportunity to bargain over the distribution of these funds,” said union President Loraine De La Torre.
But district and school board representatives maintained that the teachers union didn’t ask to return to the bargaining table to open negotiations on the previously approved plan for SB231 funds until after the Dec. 13 IFC meeting.
The committee’s legal counsel, Asher Killian, said SB231 itself doesn’t require IFC to evaluate whether the funds were subject to collective bargaining, the quality of the collective bargaining or whether any violations occurred during the collective bargaining process before allocating funds to a school district. He said the state’s Employment Management Relations Board would be better equipped to resolve the dispute between the school district and the union.
The committee ultimately approved Lyon County’s funding request with Assemblywoman Natha Anderson (D-Reno) as the lone vote in opposition. Anderson is a Washoe County teacher, and has previously served as the president of the Washoe Education Association and as an NSEA board member.
The Clark County School District was initially expected to be among the school districts requesting an SB231 allocation, but was removed from the agenda prior to the meeting. The school district asked for its request to be rescheduled to the IFC's April meeting as it has since engaged in further negotiations with its support staff, according to emails shared by the school district.
This story was updated on 2/9/24 at 11:06 a.m. to correct the spelling of Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno's name.