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Jara speaks: Clark County superintendent defends district after lengthy teacher pay dispute

Superintendent Jesus Jara blamed part of the monthslong standoff on teachers union’s unwillingness to budge on contract demands.
Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationK-12 Education

Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara said he’s undeterred by continued calls for his resignation by the district’s teachers union and top Democratic lawmakers, who say they’re disappointed that it took months for the school district and the union to finalize their contract negotiations.

Jara and the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) announced Dec. 20 that a new contract had been approved by an arbitrator following a monthslong standoff between the union and district. The new contract includes an 18 percent raise over the next two years and additional pay for special education teachers and teachers who are at schools that serve a high population of students from low-income families and have high vacancy rates. It’s slightly higher than what the district said it was offering teachers in October. 

The contract went into effect immediately upon approval from an arbitrator, but the document itself has not been finalized yet. 

In September, the Clark County School District declared an impasse in its negotiations with the union, and called its demands “unaffordable, budget busting and inequitable.” During a Monday interview with The Nevada Independent, Jara said calling an impasse became a necessary step because after 11 bargaining sessions, it felt like the district’s bargaining team was “looking at a mirror and bargaining by ourselves.”

“Usually in negotiations you negotiate and you move or you don't move … CCEA never moved off of their original ask,” he said. 

The impasse declaration was not only criticized by CCEA, but also by Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), who have joined the union’s call for Jara’s resignation. Jara said he’s not focused on those calls to resign.

“I don't run the school system listening to some of these folks out there,” he said. “I run a school system with a clear focus on children, the adults and doing what's right, not by doing what the polls tell me.”  

In addition to the 18 percent raises over the next two years, the contract also includes a supplemental 1.875 percent pay increase halfway through the 2023-24 school year that continues through June 30, 2025, to be paid for with the help of a $250 million matching fund created last year through SB231 to support raises for teachers and support staff. 

Those compensation boosts are in line with CCEA’s demands since the union began negotiating with the district last March. In October, the district said it was offering teachers a salary increase of 17.4 percent (5.1 percent of which would be funded through SB231). 

Jara said one of the district’s priorities in contract negotiations was to address inequities in its salary schedule that have led some veteran teachers with advanced education being paid at roughly the same level as newly hired teachers with bachelor's degrees. Jara said the district had proposed a “look back” mechanism, which would have allowed the district to address issues of salary compression which occurs when there's little difference in pay between employees regardless of differences in their respective knowledge, skills, experience or abilities. 

In a Monday interview, CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita accused Jara and the district of never being serious about their look back proposal. He said CCEA never really understood what the district was proposing to do because officials never presented specifics at the bargaining table. He said it also seemed that the district’s proposal would primarily benefit teachers at schools in the suburbs that don’t have vacancy issues. 

“Our whole focus, as we've explained publicly 10 million times, was that we're trying to use money where we could put a teacher in every classroom and the highest vacancies were in the urban core,” Vellardita said. 

According to Vellardita, when the union suggested tweaks to the district’s look back proposal, the district scrapped the idea entirely. 

“I think there was never any serious intention,” he said. “I think that this was used as a wedge during the contract negotiations, because he gave more detail in emails promising … stuff we never saw at the table.”

Full details of discussions during bargaining sessions are not open to the public. In a recent Las Vegas Sun story, Jara suggested making contract negotiations between school districts and their bargaining units a more public process to increase transparency and accountability. 

Vellardita said he takes Jara’s call for transparency “with a grain of salt.”

In early December, the Interim Finance Committee (an body of lawmakers that meets between legislative sessions and approves spending decisions) seemingly punished the district for its lack of progress on a new contract for teachers when it declined to consider its request for a portion of matching fund to support additional pay increases for its support staff, who had a new contract in place by the committee’s Dec. 13 meeting.

How SB231 funds would be applied in the teacher contract became a point of tension during negotiations, with the district insisting that any SB231-funded raises include a sunset clause because there was no guarantee that the funding would be renewed by state lawmakers. The union insisted that these raises should be permanent. 

During the meeting last month, committee chair and Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas) said she was disappointed that Jara wasn’t present at the meeting, and ultimately declined to approve the district’s request for SB231 funding because its application was incomplete. 

Guidance sent to school officials by the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) months prior to the meeting suggested that districts could submit multiple requests for SB231 funding, anticipating that they could finalize collective bargaining agreements with the various unions representing their employees at different points in time. 

Yet another section of the guidance states that lawmakers have “ultimate authority” in approving districts’ SB231 requests. 

Jara said he was unable to attend the December meeting due to a family matter out of state, but added that SB231 did not specify that a superintendent had to present the district’s funding request. He said it was also unclear prior to the meeting that districts had to finalize contract negotiations with all bargaining units eligible for the funding before applying. 

He said he’s unsure if Monroe-Moreno will allow CCSD’s request to be heard during the upcoming Feb. 8 meeting as its new contract with CCEA is not public yet, and the district has still has not finalized negotiations with the union that represents its school police officers, who are also eligible for SB231-funded raises. 

A legislative staff member confirmed that Monday is the deadline for the district to submit its request for SB231 funding in order to be considered during the February meeting, but said CCSD can request an extension from Monroe-Moreno. 


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