Las Vegas Sun

July 22, 2014

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HIGHER EDUCATION:

Pay raise issue might divide K-12, college instructors

CSN faculty leader backs freeze — if it applies to all

Conflicting stances on pay raises could put some college faculty and K-12 teachers representatives at odds during the upcoming legislative session.

College of Southern Nevada Faculty Senate Chairwoman Sondra Cosgrove said this week she would support a freeze on salaries as long as all state employees — including teachers — were treated the same.

“Every citizen in the state of Nevada is going to have to do their fair share so we can get through the budget crisis,” Cosgrove said.

UNLV Faculty Senate Chairman Nasser Daneshvary said a temporary freeze on all state salaries would be “reasonable” if it did not affect employees earning lower incomes — about $50,000 or less, perhaps.

He said one reason for making an exception for low-income earners is that proposed reductions in health benefits would hurt these people the most.

Cosgrove’s and Daneshvary’s views clash with those of representatives of the Nevada State Education Association, the K-12 teachers union. Those union reps argue that teachers already have contracts with school districts guaranteeing some raises.

After the governor announced last month that he planned to eliminate raises, including teachers’ step increases, in the next biennium, the union posted a statement on its Web site saying, “It is irresponsible to propose to ignore legal contracts which have been honored for decades — this is exactly what not funding step increases would do.”

• • •

As 2009 began, higher education officials were left still wondering when the governor would announce appointments to two seats on the Board of Regents that will become vacant this week.

Regent Steve Sisolak will leave the board to join the Clark County Commission on Monday. He was elected to the seat Nov. 4.

Regent Thalia Dondero’s departure from the board was set even farther back, in late July, when the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that term limits made her ineligible even though she was already on the ballot, unopposed. Her seat will open on Tuesday.

When the Sun asked why it has taken Gov. Jim Gibbons so long to find replacements, Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns replied, “I don’t think it’s taken that long. You’re the first person who’s told me you believe it’s taken a long time.”

Burns said the list of potential appointees was pared down in December.

“We’re going through interviews right now,” he said on Tuesday, adding that the governor’s office would issue a news release to announce appointments. As of

5 p.m. Friday, the Sun had not received that announcement.

Some higher education officials say they would have liked to have seen appointments announced earlier.

“We were expecting to have known before we went off for winter break (Dec. 12),” Cosgrove said.

“As a senate chair,” she added, “I need to know each member personally so I know what their issues are.”

For regents, learning about higher education takes time. Northern Nevada lawyer Bill Cobb, an incoming regent, said in October that he had already met with regents, college presidents and other officials to learn about higher education institutions and regents’ responsibilities.

“It’s a huge learning curve to get up to speed on your responsibilities and obligations, so it’s almost like Regent 101,” Cobb said at the time.

The regents’ next regular meeting is slated for Feb. 5 and 6.

The fact that Gibbons has not announced appointments does not bother everyone.

“If he does it by Jan. 15, that’d be just fine,” said Jim Rogers, chancellor of the public higher education system. “At the moment, I think he’s got enough on his plate to try to figure out, his budgets and all of that.”

• • •

Adam Cronis, president of UNLV’s undergraduate student body, took time during winter break to do some lobbying.

While in Northern Nevada visiting his parents, Cronis swung by the governor’s office in Carson City.

He said he met with a Gibbons staffer to discuss concerns including students’ worries that a major budget cut could threaten students’ ability to graduate in a timely manner. UNLV has already reduced class offerings this year to save money.

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