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CCEA calls for quick improvement in schools in exchange for big funding boost

Rocio Hernandez
Rocio Hernandez
EducationGovernmentK-12 EducationLegislature
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More than four-hundred miles away from Carson City where lawmakers kicked off the first day of the 2023 legislative session, the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) called for improvements in school funding, teacher vacancies and school safety, but also for better school performance within a year. 

At a Monday event outside of the Grant Sawyer government building in Las Vegas, Clark County teacher union boss John Vellardita applauded Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposed $2 billion increase in K-12 funding and an additional $250 million proposed by state Democrats to help districts increase educators’ salaries. 

But the union also echoed Lombardo’s call for accountability along with the increase in K-12 education, starting with a focus on improving student proficiency in the Clark County School District. In the 2021-2022 school year, fewer than 20 percent of Clark County high school students were proficient in math, and not even half were proficient in English Language Arts, according to data from the Nevada Department of Education

“We cannot keep asking legislators to pass more money for funding when there are no outcomes associated with that funding,” Vellardita said. “The school district should have one year to demonstrate turnarounds with this kind of unprecedented historic investment on the part of the Legislature and the governor.”

CCEA estimates the Democratic proposal to add $250 million would equate to a 10 percent increase in salaries for all educators, licensed professionals and support staff in the first year of the coming biennium. 

But Vellardita said those proposed funds won’t work without a focus on teacher recruitment and retention efforts.

“If there are no educators, then what good is the money?” Vellardita said. 

The Clark County School District had more than 1,300 open teacher positions just before the start of the school year. CCEA projects over the next 10 years that Clark County schools will need 14,000 more teachers, but questions where those teachers will come from given enrollment drops in teacher preparation programs. 

CCEA said it's supporting a pending legislative effort to create a teacher pipeline initiative that would recruit high school students to join the education profession.

Vellardita also voiced support for Lombardo’s executive order on Monday calling on school districts and the state’s charter school authority to turn over existing third-party audits. 

“We think it's long overdue,” he said. “Nobody should be afraid of accounting for public dollars, particularly when it's supposed to go to education.”

School safety also has been top of mind for the union. Since the brutal attack last school year of an Eldorado high school teacher by a student, CCEA has been calling for amendments to the so-called restorative justice law passed in 2019 that it said “handcuffs educators and administrators from taking immediate action to remove disruptive students from the classroom.”

“Our students and staff should feel safe, whether they're on a school bus or on a school campus or walking in the hall,” said CCEA President Marie Neisess. “Students cannot learn if they're in school fearing that something may happen to them.” 

In addition, CCEA is interested in addressing teacher working conditions, class sizes, school climate and changing the school board governance structure. Last year, former Lt. Gov. Lisa Cano Burkhead filed a bill draft request that would add appointed members, including board presidents, to school boards. 

Nevada school board members are selected through elections. CCEA has previously signaled support for adding appointees.

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