Union leader: CCSD teachers ‘firm’ on pay raise demands, want Lombardo’s opinion on them
Though the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) reached out to Gov. Joe Lombardo to help resolve its dispute with the Clark County School District (CCSD) over proposed raises for teachers, the union isn’t looking for the Republican governor to act as a mediator in their contract negotiations.
Instead, CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita said in an interview with The Nevada Independent on Tuesday that the union is asking the governor to assess how and if the teacher pay proposals put forward by the union and district work toward addressing teacher vacancies in the state’s largest school district.
“We are not asking the governor to mediate the situation,” he said. “What intervention means from our perspective is we're asking the governor to hold CCEA accountable on the contract proposals it has on the table as to whether or not those proposals are addressing the vacancies, those proposals are in alignment … with the intent behind resources adopted in this last legislative session.”
Vellardita added that CCEA is already in discussions with Lombardo, but didn’t share more details about what’s been said in those discussions. The governor’s office confirmed in a Wednesday statement that Lombardo has had initial conversations with both sides and will continue those discussions this week.
Lombardo said in a Saturday statement that he’s “eager to help resolve this conflict in a way that best serves the children of Clark County.”
Lombardo’s intervention is one of the handful of actions CCEA members voted to take Saturday as the union’s negotiations with CCSD for a new two-year contract remain at a standstill. Close to 3,500 teachers from about 350 Clark County schools were in attendance at the Saturday meeting held at the Cox Pavilion on UNLV’s campus, according to Vellardita.
CCEA has also doubled down on its threat to take “work actions” against CCSD. While the district has interpreted “work action” to mean a strike — something illegal under state law for public employees — Vellardita said what it means is the union will file a complaint, and possibly a class action grievance, if teachers report being forced or coerced to work by a principal beyond the 7 hours and 11 minutes per day required in their contract.
Vellardita said CCEA is advising any teachers being threatened or bullied into working more than their contract requires to start logging their work time and notify the union so it can put in a complaint. According to Vellardita, CCEA notified CCSD of this course of action on Monday.
“So no more free labor,” he said.
Vellardita said teachers are free to voluntarily work overtime if they see fit.
In an emailed statement to The Nevada Independent, the district said it “has not been informed by the CCEA that its members are engaging in any 'work actions.' If they are, it’s disappointing that the CCEA would resort to such tactics that have a direct negative impact on the district’s students. We would hope that the CCEA would reconsider their strategy of using students as leverage for their bargaining demands."
CCEA has stayed firm on its key salary demands including:
- An 18 percent salary increase for all licensed educators over the next two years
- An additional $5,000 salary increase for all educators at certain schools with high numbers of vacancies and hard-to-fill positions
- A 5 percent increase for special education teachers
- An increase of 1.5 times a teacher’s salary for all hours worked after contract time and a salary increase for coaches
- That the district address class sizes and caseloads
- A sick leave buy back proposal
- An increase in the district’s contribution to teacher health care costs
- Adjustments to teachers’ salary schedule.
Meanwhile, the school district has proposed a 10.5 percent pay increase for licensed educators over the next two years. That would increase the starting salary from about $50,000 to $53,000.
In addition, the school district is proposing reforming teachers’ salary schedule to “realign teachers hired after August 2016 based on their years of service and education.” CCSD said this would result in pay increases for more than 3,300 employees. CCSD has also offered pay increases for coaches, club advisers and certain teachers of students with disabilities.
The school district said it's also willing to contribute about $14 million more to the licensed educators’ health care plan, Teachers Health Trust, in 2023-2024, and about $7.7 million more in 2024-2025.
"CCSD will continue to advocate for paying teachers what they deserve within the means allocated by the Legislature while ensuring that the interests of students, parents, and the District’s overall operations are not disrupted,” the district said in a statement.
But Vellardita said CCEA members in attendance at the Saturday meeting soundly rejected CCSD’s proposal.
“The membership has no appetite or interest in what the district is proposing and is firm on the proposals that we have on the table,” Vellardita said.
Instead, CCEA members voted to continue the contract campaign, which Vellardita said could include more rallies at school board meetings and at school sites such as the ones that have been held before or after school at various locations since the beginning of the school year. Vellardita said any public engagement event where a district official is in attendance could also be “fair game.”
During a Monday Facebook Live broadcast, CCEA President Marie Neisess declared that the union wouldn’t pursue a strike as CCSD feared it would, leading to the district requesting for an injunction against the union, which was eventually denied.
As teachers enter their second month of the school year without a new contract in place, one possible next step could be declaring an impasse, which would trigger the start of the mediation and arbitration process between the union and school district.
While CCEA has had previous success in past arbitration sessions against CCSD, and Vellardita thinks CCEA could be successful again this time around, he said one downside is that it’s not usually a speedy process. He said in previous negotiations, it’s taken anywhere from 10 months to a year and half to complete the arbitration process.
But one advantage Vellardita sees is it would allow the union to argue that the school district has more than enough funding sources to pay for the compensation boosts demanded by the union, including CCSD’s share of $250 million in matching funds from SB231 (approved by state lawmakers earlier this year) that have yet to be allocated to qualifying school districts.
Last week, the school district said “any use of the funds must include a sunset clause” that makes it clear that those bonuses are temporary since “there is no statutory assurance” that the funds will continue beyond 2025, the end of the current budget cycle. Other school districts have included similar language in the contracts they’ve settled with the unions that represent their teachers and support staff.
Education Support Employees Association (ESEA) and Teamsters Local 14, the unions that represent CCSD’s support staff, and the district have agreed to negotiate a separate agreement regarding the available monies allocated in SB231.
Vellardita said CCEA’s position on SB231 funding remains unchanged.
“What they're doing elsewhere doesn't deter our efforts,” he said. “We don't care that the support staff here is prepared to sell their members out and have them give up a raise two years from now.”
Democratic lawmakers who supported SB231 have downplayed district concerns over the potential lapse in funding as “ridiculous,” arguing instead that the matching funds were like “any funding appropriated by the Legislature” for the two-year biennial budget.
This story was updated at 5:45 p.m. on Aug. 29, 2023 to include comments from the Clark County School District.
This story was updated at 12:40 p.m. on 8/30/23 to add comment from Lombardo’s office about status of discussions.