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November 24, 2014

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District crying wolf could hurt credibility in next budget fight

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Justin M. Bowen

Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones speaks during the 31st annual Las Vegas Perspective on Thursday, March 31, 2011, at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas.

During contract negotiations with its teachers, the Clark County School District warned of dire consequences — up to 1,000 teachers laid off — if existing teachers got raises instead of having their salaries frozen.

The district lost at arbitration and ended up issuing pink slips to 419 teachers. But, despite the warnings, all those teachers have been hired back. They didn’t lose any pay. And on top of that, on Friday, the school district said it has hired 281 new teachers.

Although that’s good news for teachers and for students, it’s also a problem for the School District: Given the district’s warning of layoffs, it now has a credibility problem.

“They said, because of unions, people will lose their jobs,” said Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas. “It turns out it was all baloney.”

During budget fights, there are so many cries that the sky is going to fall that it’s a wonder that the Legislature still has a roof. Raise taxes? Businesses will flee the state. Cut government? Might as well give the children lead-laced Slurpees.

The negotiations between the district and the Clark County Education Association became particularly harsh this year. Teachers wanted a pay raise and the district wanted a salary freeze. It went to an arbitrator, who decided the district had enough money to pay for the raises.

“As a result of the ruling, some teachers will get increases while other teachers will get a pink slip,” Clark County Superintendent Dwight Jones said in May.

The district did, technically, lay off more than 400 teachers, and pink slips were sent to the teachers this summer. But a “layoff” in which you get hired back a few months later and don’t lose any pay, while worrisome for those teachers, is hardly the same as the common definition.

The entire episode became a battle cry for Nevada conservatives. They used it to argue for change in the system of how unions bargain with local governments, called “collective bargaining.”

They also argued a union willing to sacrifice junior teachers for pay increases for its greybeards demonstrated just how debased the institutions had become.

“So CCSD’s seven best new teachers will be rewarded with pink slips,” wrote the Nevada Policy Research Institute in May. “All because union bosses succeeded in protecting ineffective teachers that harm the learning of your children.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy director of public policy for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, acknowledged that “there was hyperbole from both sides.”

Throughout the negotiations, the union maintained the School District was misleading the public and unnecessarily frightening teachers.

“We said all along that the School District had the money. The layoffs were unnecessary,” said Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association.

District officials “do have some problems being believable,” he added.

The fact layoffs didn’t ultimately occur is not to suggest that policy doesn’t have consequences. The arbitrator’s decision to give pay raises still hurts the district, school officials said. The district has 300 fewer teaching positions this year than it would have if it had won at arbitration. Class sizes will increase by two or three students, according to the district.

Amanda Fulkerson, lead spokeswoman for the Clark County School District, said Jones made a conscious decision to find positions for the teachers who got pink slips.

“Having teachers in the classrooms is what’s best for kids,” she said. “It’s also best for the community.”

She said the school district did not engage in hyperbole. “We acted responsibly,” she said. “We informed teachers what the situation was, in regards to reality.”

As for Murillo, he said he now wants to focus on improving the revenue stream — getting the Legislature to increase taxes in 2013.

But if schools can pay for raises and not lay off any teachers — indeed, continue hiring teachers — someone credible will have to sell it.

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  1. An ongoing "credibility problem".

  2. She said the school district did not engage in hyperbole. "We acted responsibly," she said. "We informed teachers what the situation was, in regards to reality."

    The above statement is hyperbole!

  3. Credibility? That issue would be with policy and teachers. We get negative results for $2 Billion a year. Arizona gets GRADUATES who can read and write for $1,000 a student less, each year.

  4. Teachers in CCSD average about $74K in compensation and can mvoe up to about $96K with benefits. Time for a PAY CUT. Cut taxes so our economy can reboot.

  5. What Geoffrey is referring to is that both CCSD, under Dwight Jones leadership, and NPRI --lied-- to teachers, parents & the union, while trying to bust the union.
    Making this worse was the fact that the school board was either financially negligent or just plain lied about CCSD's finances, which made them an accomplice of NPRI's union busting.

    Roslenda, corporations are making higher profits now than in any other time in US history, while Nevada is at the very bottom of education funding. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR.

  6. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  7. gmag: Arizona has as many hispanics but they get GRADUATES who can read and write for $1,000 a year less per student. So with Nevada's lower cost of living, what gives? I don't hate teachers but I demand value for my tax dollars--and we have not been getting it. I don't know if there are too many ineffective teachers or how much of it is lack of time in the classroom--so extend the school days, school year...

    Bradley, both CCSD and the LVSun have confirmed the average teacher compensation is $74K. You might be talking net take home for part time work--184 days versus 240 for the rest of us.

  8. Alli: we're getting the WORST results nationwide yet our spending is in the middle range--when you add up sales tax portions direct to SD's (LSST portions) AND dsa state fund and endless property tax bond issues. We've seen a LITTLE progress in the last year or two in graduation rates but it's still unacceptable. Let's cut fund in half and pay parents who home school and use online K-12...if we can get kids to read and write by grade 4.

  9. I perused the comments here, and there was one thing I didn't see mention of. I got my property tax "coupons" for the fiscal year (I guess). Made my first payment this month. Property taxes fund CCSD, and mine went DOWN. I couldn't care less about that, as my home is my shelter, and not a cash cow. What is important though is that property taxes, in part, fund CCSD. I am sure there are many other homeowners whose taxes went down. If that's the case, you can expect CCSD to come, hat in hand, for more dough to finance their failed school district. Also, I'm sure everyone has seen the call for donations of school supplies for students to supplement the alleged expense teachers face of coming out of their own pocket to supply students with the tools to do their schoolwork. WHAT ARE THEIR PARENTS DOING? Being from another generation, there was no such donation drive. My parents supplied me with what I needed. Let's cull the bloated administration ranks NOW. What exactly are they "administrating", besides their bloated salaries? Education begins at HOME. We are the worst in the nation by virtue of kids coming from broken homes, both parents having to work to make a decent standard of living, language barriers, functional illiteracy of a bunch of "parents", who can't even begin to help their kids with homework, and on and on. Until that changes, the graduation rates here will remain abysmal.

  10. It's unfortunate, but Dwight Jones and his administration, has had a credibility since they arrived in Las Vegas. It's time for the public, through the school board,to demand some transparency and accountability from this administration.

  11. Roslenda, I'm sick of people making the assumption that teachers only work part time. That is a load of crap! I put in my 2,000 hours a year of work, if not more, same as you. I just happen to do it from August to June. I get paid for 7 hours and 11 minutes per school day, whether I am there for 10 hours or not.
    What that means, and perhaps you don't understand this, is that teachers get no overtime, no extra compensation for planning and grading, and no vacation pay. That's right! During my summer "vacation", I am earning NO MONEY. During spring break? Nothing. Winter break? Nothing. They are forced un-paid holidays.
    I also make $15,000 a year (when I include benefits) less than your "average teacher salary with benefits". I have a masters degree, and 8 years in the district. In fact, I don't know of a single teacher in my department that makes $74K with benefits.
    You are proving two things to me, Roslenda: you are trying to find "facts" that support your point of view (which makes you ignorant), and two, that you aren't interested at all in actually fixing the problems we have (which makes you scary).

  12. @ Mr. Jetzman...

    "You are proving two things to me, Roslenda: you are trying to find "facts" that support your point of view (which makes you ignorant), and two, that you aren't interested at all in actually fixing the problems we have (which makes you scary)."

    VERY scary.
    TeaNut Talk...
    It doesn't HAVE to make sense.
    It just has to fit your narrow-minded, willfully ignorant agenda.

  13. And, Rosy...

    How do you figure that 44th out of 51 *(includes D.C.) is 'good' and 'getting bang for your buck'?

    'Zona is an educational wasteland, just like Nevader.

  14. Teachers continue to be scapegoated by an education administration run amok. The old saw, "s**t flows downhill" should be the motto of the Board of Trustees and the CCSD administration. It's time to quit hiring carpetbaggers and political hacks with an agenda to run the School District. Blaming teachers for every ill in the system is disingenuous at best. Most teachers give their all to the community and the students they teach. They should be in charge, not some elitist clowns trying to get rich on the backs of the taxpaying public.

  15. Dwight Jones should be fired for the games he played with OUR teachers. His union busting tactics affected the lives of many of our neighbors and friends.
    Can't wait to see what happens the next time the school district asks us to approve a bond issue. The School Board should fire this guy and move on with the job of education.

  16. CCSD spokesperson and spin-mistress extraordinaire, Amanda Fulkerson, said Jones made a conscious decision to find positions for the teachers who got pink slips. Well, I'm certainly glad he did, but where'd he get the money? It sure didn't appear as the result of laying off any six-figure-salaried administrators in the central office. In fact, hasn't he added a few more recently?

    What's truly sad about this situation is that the district will be asking voters to approve a new bond issue for much needed repairs and technology upgrades in various schools, and I'm afraid Mr. Jones just drove a stake through the heart of that plan. And yet, school board trustees apparently still see Jones as God's gift to the Clark County School District. Go figure!

  17. I find fault in the union and school admins they both are in it for their own agendas and not for the kids they are supposed to be educating. I think most teachers would like to see bloated union official pay go down and see highly paid school admin "consultants" done away with. We spend enough on education it's just not enough of it makes it to the classroom.

  18. BrianLV: Are you aware that teachers' union officials are paid the same as teachers, that the elected officers of the Clark County Education Association have both voluntarily taken furlough days to substantially reduce their pay, and that the union's CEO is paid roughly half of what the former CEO was being paid by the CCEA? The RJ made a big deal out of the three salaries that the former CEO was collecting, yet the two other entities he worked for are governed by independent boards, and the CCEA had absolutely no say whatsoever in deciding his compensation in those organizations. I mention this only because I'm sure you want to make sure you have your facts straight.

  19. Who Says they are crying Wolf?

  20. So here we are, as predicted with my 0 plus or minus 100 over under for layoffs a reality. What really shocks me is how so many respondents still want to criticize the rank and file teacher and our industry in general. Is our pay package on average worth $75000? Maybe if one considers the amount of money paid into pers for our retirement and if our medical insurance is expensed. But if one went to a private sector job with comparable requirements one would find our salary probably still lags these jobs. Let us just call it the way it is. Our profession was made fun of for years due to our low pay. Trust me, I grew up a CCSD teachers kid. Time passed, the world changed, union jobs got outsourced and immigrants came in and did your jobs for less and faster.(I won't discuss quality, you probably have me there, but industry cares little for quality) You got laid off, we couldn't be outsourced or they couldn't put an illegal in our position(though I am sure school board would if they thought they could get away with it). Our salary that used to be laughed at was now greater than your zero dollars or unemployment check. I have a solution. Go back to school, get a degree, do your student teaching(make sure it is something needed like math or science) get hired and find out what it is really all about. Until then fade since you lost. As for Dwight Jones, he is a fake, a fraud, a phony, a carnival barker, a circus geek, a puppet for the school board which are shills for the chamber of commerce. Any questions, ask the information hag Amanda Fulkerson. I am sure she will give you a hyperbolic untrue answer.

  21. Simply: Comparable positions in private industry and State of Nevada are NOT so well compensated although they expect 2040 hours a year ON THE JOB. Granted every occupation has off the job work--from research, travel, training..... Teachers are scheduled 184 days, not 245 days. 7 hour days, not 8-10 hour days ON THE JOB. Teaching is an honorable profession and should be done with class and dedication--just like most other professions. Compensation what it is, we are NOT GETTING RESULTS from the classroom. Nevada ranks 50th in results. Even other "teacher friendly" posters have admitted that Nevada K-12 funding is in the mid-20's, out of 50 states--no where near last. Teacher pay is right smack in the middle. So why are we NOT getting results? If we can't get the little darlings reading and writing by grade 4, there is little to no chance that those kids will make it (thru school, as employees, as successes.)

  22. Bob, that may be but we haven't been able to fix it despite dumping in excessive funding for generations. So let's opt out and go for online K-12 and give parents a stipend.
    lisareddd: I'll have to watch your posts before I form an opinion. Thanks for noting that I don't point at teachers. But, I've sort of given up on Tanker who pushes for more money, money, money, more teachers, teachers, teachers even though IT'S NOT WORKING.

  23. Enough of this hiding, hoarding, and stashing by the top tier. There is money.

    There is money in the district. It was discovered during arbitration.

    There is money in this state. If you have been attending MOAC meetings, you would have heard. Mining is not audited by a CPA. Mining is not inspected; the inspectors that try to inspect have no power to fine.

    Mining took $4.3 BILLION in deductions. Yes they have a Constitutional cap of 5%. Maybe they should pay the cap. Or maybe they should pay even 1% - by closing the loopholes?

    There is money in Nevada to pay our bills - enough and to spare. It is ridiculous that we have to starve our schools and other support systems that are necessary for schools and communities while foreigners come into Nevada and cart of the gold in the night!