Clark County teachers union puts strike plans on hold

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Steve Marcus

Sons of teachers, from front left, AJ Brown, 12, Kaleb Shepard, 10, and Landon Young, 9, rally outside Liberty High School in Henderson Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019. The Clark County Education Association, the largest teachers union in Clark County, has scheduled a strike for Sept. 10 if it doesn’t reach an agreement with the Clark County School District.

Fri, Aug 23, 2019 (8:15 p.m.)

Nevada’s largest teachers union said Friday it is pausing strike preparations for educators in the Clark County School District.

However, the looming threat for a Sept. 10 districtwide teacher work stoppage is still on the table, said John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association.

A 2016 agreement for a $5,400 salary advancement for teachers who completed three years of professional development continues to roil negotiations, Vellardita said. Roughly 2,500 teachers participated in the program.

While the district in a statement said it was offering a one-time payment for qualifying teachers, Vellardita called the offer “dead on arrival,” insulting and disrespectful.

The sides had reached an agreement for a 3% pay increase, a 2% step increase and a 4% increase in health care costs.

Gov. Steve Sisolak levied criticism at the district Friday, saying he was “really angry at the situation that we’re facing.”

He wasn’t representing the district or its school board, he said, but was speaking on behalf of students, parents and teachers. Sisolak wanted to “set the record straight” regarding funding dollars allotted during the last legislation session.

The 2019 Legislature earmarked about $69 million for pay raises and additional benefits for the district’s 18,000 educators.

Superintendent Jesus Jara says the district's offer presented to the union Friday was generous and in compliance with the contract.

“When you look at the mathematics in the past, this is probably the largest (offer) we’ve seen on an annual basis,” Jara said.

Sisolak said the district received the funding from Carson City and it’s up to it to meet contractual obligations. “They created this mess, and now they need to fix it,” he said about district officials.

Flanked by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Assemblyman Jason Frierson, Sisolak said he was “forced” to weigh in to protect those who would be affected by a strike, which would “devastate” schools, those who occupied them and the economy.

A deal, he said, must not come at the expense of the union contract, teacher positions or an increase in classroom sizes, Sisolak said.

“Get in a room, lock the door and figure it out,” he said.

Addressing strike preparations which were set to begin today, Vellardita said they could begin at any moment, and that a Sept. 10 strike was still very possible if there wasn’t any significant advance in negotiating.

But in “lieu” of Sisolak speaking out, Vellardita said, the union is confident leadership in the state will help “shepherd” an agreement.

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