Las Vegas Sun

February 26, 2015

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School District to hang on to 1,000 teachers, maintain class sizes

Dwight Jones

Dwight Jones

Carolyn Edwards

Carolyn Edwards

The budget situation for the Clark County School District is looking less dire after about $250 million in additional state funds were allocated to the district by the Legislature last weekend.

Up until last week, the School District was looking to bridge a $407 million budget shortfall by, among other measures, laying off more than 1,800 employees.

Now, the district plans to use the $250 million in additional state revenue to maintain class sizes, restore counselors and school support staff targeted for elimination and keep about 1,000 teaching positions.

Employees who were expecting to take furlough days and pay more for health insurance premiums under the proposed budget cuts can also breathe a sigh of relief.

But there is still a $150 million budget gap that needs to be filled, the School District’s Chief Financial Officer Jeff Weiler told board members during a six-hour regular board meeting Tuesday night.

“Clearly, we still have a gap, but it’s a much smaller gap,” he said. “We’ve made up $250 million, which is amazing given where we were a week ago.”

Superintendent Dwight Jones agreed. “Even though we’re still going to still have to make cuts, it’s a lot better than where we were,” he said.

To make up the remainder of the budget shortfall, the district will maintain some proposed cuts, such as eliminating 200 bus driver positions, slashing the textbook and supplies budget in half and freezing salary increases.

About 600 central office positions that include administrators and support staff, and an undetermined number of special education, English language learner and literacy specialists will still be cut, said Bill Garis, the School District’s acting chief human resources officer.

The Legislature voted on a series of budget-balancing measures — mainly extending taxes set to expire to fill a $650 million budget hole — that sent unanticipated dollars back to the cash-strapped district, staving off teacher layoffs.

On Sunday, state lawmakers approved a $2.1 billion statewide education budget for the next biennium, which will increase the state’s basic funding per student. The School District is expected to receive $5,136 per student next year, which is $383 more per student than proposed in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s original budget.

Balancing the School District budget is still contingent on reaching concessions with the four employee unions, Weiler said.

Clark County Education Association President Ruben Murillo said the majority of the union’s 12,000 members are against the proposed pay cuts and concessions, even if that means teacher layoffs.

“Teacher morale is pretty low,” he said. “Teachers are just worried. For them, the fear of the unknown is what’s getting to them — am I going to have a job? What’s my salary and benefits going to look like?”

School Board President Carolyn Edwards said she sympathized with employees as the district finalized budget cuts.

“There is a lot of mistrust and a lot of unsettledness within the district, especially given there is talk of layoffs,” she said. “There are people currently today sitting in their buildings not knowing, and they’re terrified and they’re scared.”

“If we could do whatever can happen to move quickly to address (staffing), we can bring some calm back into our district,” she said. “This has been very difficult.”

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  1. Hopefully, the teachers feel somewhat better now.

  2. All of the draconian cuts - just scaremongering by the Sandoval and his crew?

  3. No, posturing by the district so the teachers look greedy when the they say no to pay cuts.
    How can one respect a school district which plays politics with their children's educations?
    It really is time the district financials were audited for the public.

  4. cnev- When it involves the government,unions and taxpayers, how can you possibly expect parties/interest groups to avoid political posturing? Unfortunately, its part of the process.

  5. Readers need to know that most average teachers here in the school district, have NOT seen a COLA(cost of living adjustment/raise) in their pay for almost 4 years and their medical benefits are getting less, not more besides, each and every year, hence more out of pocket/out front medical costs to them.

    It is also real safe to say that most teachers also buy for their classes out of pocket to insure the students will have the quality and deliver of educational services that nurture academic growth. Keep in mind, the Federally mandated No Child Left Behind (which leaves children behind in reality and is NOW up for reinstatement on the Federal level-so please contact you FEDERAL LAWMAKER about this) that all states must implement in order to get those Federal dollars for things like FREE school lunches, did not provide states any money to run that program. They said do it or else. NCLB needs to go! And teachers have typically spent money out of their own pockets to purchase the NCLB teacher materials/books and student materials to use in their lessons. It's like a guitarist having to bring their own guitar to a concert.

    The financial and accounting records for each school and the district should be made available online for the public in an easy to follow format. Taxpayers need to know where the $$$ money is being spent and be able to go to a Board Meeting and voice intelligently their concerns.

    Now is the season for transparency and accountability. Teachers have given and given, and the district has not been mindful of the very people they courted from other states and countries to come here to work for them by keeping the pay at a level of rising costs of: fuel, food, clothing, utilities, taxes, insurances, mortgages, etc. so that their hires aren't needing to go out and get 2nd jobs.

    Teachers are professionals who have worked hard to become teachers, gone through numerous background checks, volunteered, maintain on-going professional development/enlightenment, and regular relicensure. They give a great deal of their free time for the benefit of students and their families. You don't have that happen with most professions and jobs. Most people work and go home. Not so with teachers.

    Teachers need to be able to afford to live here in order to work here. This is something the district needs to keep in mind at the negotiation table.

  6. Average compensation in Vegas, private sector, is $35K, not the $91K teachers tenure up to. SOME TEACHERS ARE THE PROBLEM, not the solution. Get rid of ineffective teachers. STOP CUTTING TEXT BOOKS. LENGTHEN THE SCHOOL DAY, THE SCHOOL YEAR, THE INTEREST IN THE STUDENTS, not the teachers.

  7. It was less expensive to keep the teachers hired then to give 1000 homes and 5000 full credit cards back to the bank in another mass exit. The shock waves from that disaster would have sent another 1000 packing and made the headlines Nationwide.

  8. @staralioflundnv "Readers need to know that most average teachers here in the school district, have NOT seen a COLA(cost of living adjustment/raise) in their pay for almost 4 years and their medical benefits are getting less, not more besides, each and every year, hence more out of pocket/out front medical costs to them."

    Are you guys actually that isolated that you would think for a moment that would make us feel sorry for you?

    TEACHERS need to know that most READERS here in Clark County, have NOT seen a COLA(cost of living adjustment/raise) in their pay for almost 4 years and their medical benefits are getting less, not more besides, each and every year, hence more out of pocket/out front medical costs to them.

  9. All of the draconian cuts - just scaremongering by the Sandoval and his crew?

    No...Who were screaming and chanting draconian cuts? It wasn't the Sandoval crew.

    It was the Hortsford boys...

  10. Certainly no one with an ounce of sense can deny the blatently obvious...

    Our Hispanic population drags down test scores and ravages the graduation rate numbers. Just the facts.

  11. Richard, thank you for the positive comments about education in the US.

    bghs1986 commented:
    "And the fact that teachers are either too self-indulgent or too ignorant to understand this says volumes about why our schools are failing."

    Please. Stop blaming teachers already until you have "walked" in my shoes. Please come and experience for yourself so you actually will know what you are talking about.

    Let me enlighten you about the brain:
    Education does not happen only in schools. It begins at home. A child who has not been stimulated during the formative years 0-5, is already five years behind when entering Kindergarten. Stimulation makes those dendrites connect - akin to constructing a freeway. When those dendrites don't connect, think about going to the Meadows Mall using surface streets because there is no freeway. Do you understand the connection? That is: when you present information, the brain processes it quickly because of the connection (freeway). If not, it takes a long time to be processed because there is no way to get where the processors are! With me so far?
    By the time I get the kid without the freeway, I have to make up for the 5 years missing. And, get this - cognitive abilities are hereditary. Now think how much I have to make up to get that kid without the freeway to be at level with his peers, without support from home, from the community and from people like you. The people who build actual freeways are paid WAAAY more. Why, are real freeways more important? Your answer of course underpins your philosophy.

    I hope your freeways are there, otherwise, this exercise is useless.

  12. Taxpayers are getting a lot of bang for their buck with teachers.

    Everyday, teachers a given children who typically don't speak, read, or write in ENGLISH, and work near miracles, much of the time, without the support of parents supporting their children in English, and having the ability (or education themselves) to help their children with school work assignments at home/homework.

    A child can only become so proficient in (English/Language Arts)reading, writing, and speaking with the amount of practice time they put behind the instruction given to them.

    Our society, school districts, and country, continue a path of assuming "political correctness" in avoiding addressing the underlying reason to academic failure in American schools: LITERACY in the English language.

    Have a great last day of school, folks!

  13. UPDATE on March 8th, 2013, and oh, the difference a year (during the Nevada State Legislative Session) makes! NOTTTTTTT. So here it is below:

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    The cause of the real problem still exists: Nevada Lawmakers REFUSE to adequately and appropriate fund education in Nevada. Until such a time, industries as MINING will exploit the nonrewable wealth buried within Nevada soils, remove it paying a pittance in return. They (MINING) should pay at least an average of what they (MINING) pays in the other 49 states! Here in Nevada, virtually nothing has changed since MINING dictated MINING LAWS into the Nevada State Constitution over a 100 years ago, when the Nevada Constitution was first being written. Go figure!

    Year after year, Nevada's infrastructure has LACKED revenue to keep it functioning properly.

    Here in Nevada, Las Vegas specifically, a REPEAT of the same, tired, worn out, vicious cycle will soon begin. Recently, the school district cried broke, forced compensation freezes on staff across the board, conditions and morale at schools at an all time low, reduced community support, hundreds of good people leaving their positions due to their "reasons", and surprise, surprise, the district has suddenly come up with TWO YEARS worth of funding to hire to fill positions and TEMPORARILY reduce classroom size and expand PRE-K and Kindergarten...once again!!!!

    Confessed, "To stop the hemorrhaging, Superintendent Dwight Jones sought a salary freeze from the district's four employee unions representing administrators, police officers, support staff and teachers." And as we experienced with the temporary "Stimulus" money a few years back, as soon as that money runs out, teachers will be CUT again (assorted tactics used to achieve this), programs will be cut, and classroom size will again increase. No need for a crystal ball here!

    The following statement puts the nails in the prediction coffin, "The hiring announcement comes exactly a month after an arbitrator ruled in favor of the School District in a bitter contract dispute with the local teachers union -- a decision that saved the district about $38.6 million over the next two years."

    You need consistent money coming in to properly run infrastructure, and with all the massive overhaul changes Superintendent Jones had planned and going, the handwriting was on the wall in regards to Nevada Lawmakers putting EDUCATION AS A PRIORITY in this state.
    Blessings and Peace,

  14. Continued
    REMEMBER: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    There is no way these changes could be SUSTAINED reliably here in Nevada. Really, Superintendent Jones should have done his homework on the way Nevada Lawmakers work before taking his position, as should the next superintendent candidate and any NEW teachers!

    Nevada Lawmakers will NOT adequately fund education, now or ever. History attests to this fact. Good luck to all who apply for positions with the school district!

    Blessings and Peace,