Las Vegas Sun

September 18, 2014

Currently: 84° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

Teachers protest proposed pay cuts, working conditions

More than 200 teachers union members packed the Clark County School Board meeting Thursday to protest proposed pay cuts and working conditions.

Teachers wearing red T-shirts lined the walls of the Edward Greer Education Center’s main meeting room, the overflow spilling into the lobby and adjacent hallway.

Even as the School Board went about its regular business — renewing a contract with Innovations International Charter School and recognizing more than 30 National Merit Semifinalists — the teachers union could be heard organizing members outside.

To plug a $39 million budget gap, the cash-strapped School District has proposed concessions for Clark County Education Association members that include freezing salary and step increases, lowering salaries to pay for pension cost increases and changing teachers’ health insurance provider from the nonprofit Teachers Health Trust to a private health insurer.

Contract negotiations failed in August, sending the matter into arbitration for a third-party judge to decide.

Last month, Clark County Superintendent Dwight Jones warned school principals to prepare to lay off nearly 1,000 teacher and other licensed positions — even as some teachers get raises — if the union prevails in arbitration. Individual schools could lose up to seven teachers, according to a memo circulated by the district’s human resources department.

The teachers union has refused the proposed concessions, saying its members are “overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.” For the past several

board meetings, union members have urged the School Board to “invest in teachers” to better student achievement.

“We’re your employees, but we’re also your constituents,” said union President Ruben Murillo, inviting School Board members to talk face-to-face with teachers to hear their concerns directly.

District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said Thursday in a text message that the union is ultimately asking teachers to take on more students — and work — by not taking concessions that could save teacher jobs. It is “absolutely off base,” she said.

Teachers at Thursday’s School Board meeting seemed unwilling to take on another round of pay and benefit cuts, imploring the School Board to look for alternative ways to bridge the funding deficit.

About 20 teachers raised their concerns during an almost two-hour-long public comment session, some nearly in tears as they spoke about pay cuts and mounting expectations to deliver better academic results.

Terri Lyman, an 18-year veteran math teacher, said she was concerned about the loss of salary increases. She said she and her husband — also a teacher — are expecting to lose $7,000 in salary increases for earning advanced degrees if the district prevails in arbitration.

“Teachers shouldn’t have to get another job if they excel at the one they already have,” she said.

First-grade teacher Tracy Beattie said she was concerned about losing the nonprofit Teachers Health Trust. Her child was born 14 weeks premature, she said, weighing only 1 pound 3 ounces at birth. A private health insurance company that didn’t cover a premature baby would have forced Beattie’s family into bankruptcy, she said.

“Please keep the Trust,” she said.

Sam King, a former teacher who is now a representative with the League of

Women Voters, told the School Board she had never seen so many impassioned teachers voicing their opinions at a meeting.

She argued that instead of pursuing concessions, the School District should go back to the Legislature for more education funding.

“You’re going to have to settle the contract,” she said. “You’ve got to stop the bleeding.”

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy

Previous Discussion: 16 comments so far…

Comments are moderated by Las Vegas Sun editors. Our goal is not to limit the discussion, but rather to elevate it. Comments should be relevant and contain no abusive language. Comments that are off-topic, vulgar, profane or include personal attacks will be removed. Full comments policy. Additionally, we now display comments from trusted commenters by default. Those wishing to become a trusted commenter need to verify their identity or sign in with Facebook Connect to tie their Facebook account to their Las Vegas Sun account. For more on this change, read our story about how it works and why we did it.

Only trusted comments are displayed on this page. Untrusted comments have expired from this story.

  1. Education is what has made America the greatest nation in the world. What are we doing?

    As a college student, seeing cuts cuts cuts as the only solution from our government, I literally changed my whole career direction and got involved to promote education and support political candidates who support education. That's my mission in life.

    Now I'm working to help get one who did support education in Carson City, Ruben Kihuen, elected to Congress.

  2. Thanks, yumietreat. That's 14 weeks.

  3. It is amazing that the average teacher pay is so much lower than the average firefighter pay. The county's priorities are WAY off.

    I'm also extremely surprised to hear that the insurance plan being proposed wouldn't cover problems like premature births. Not sure I buy that. I guess I've heard too many scare tactics, on both sides, to believe anyone in these negotiations.

    It's tough, because I know a lot of teachers work incredibly hard, are incredibly effective, and are incredibly caring. The problem is that the public hears that half of our tax dollars go towards education, and yet we're one of the worst performing districts in the country. I mean, literally at the bottom! Hard to get public support when nobody is willing to acknowledge their mistakes, and that includes us parents.

    Really hoping you guys figure something out. Everyone is going to have to give a bit, and I'm not talking about pre-determined salary increases in the future. I'm talking sacrifices on what you currently have, similar to what most of the private sector has had to do. I think you should push for more money for bonuses for teachers that DO prove to be effective. Then I'd work that angle, and determine how to identify "effective teachers". I think that's an easier sell, rather than fighting for the status quo.

  4. There is a lot going on here that the District isn't telling you, and frankly, our Union has done a poor job with it, too.

    - In the past, negotiations between the CCSD and the teachers union have been productive. The teachers offered a status quo contract for a year-- meaning cost certainty for the District. If they had offered us a contract with a pay freeze for a year, we might have taken it.
    - The Legislature allocated dollars in the last session specifically for teacher pay. The District spent the money elsewhere, and is now crying poverty.
    - Under the stimulus bill passed in 2009, the District hired a significant number of teachers with money that was temporary.
    - The CCSD continues to hire teachers, even today.
    - The District's proposal included items they *knew* would be rejected by the Union, such as the elimination of the Teachers Health Trust. They also have refused to explain how switching healthcare to a for profit carrier would save money. They have also refused to explain what a new healthcare provider would even cover. Why should we agree to that?
    - The District added a new layer of administration-- "Performance Zones", which merely added administrators and another layer of bureaucracy.

    So why should we trust them? The District took a good working relationship-- one that had produced several district-friendly contracts in a row-- and destroyed it. This impasse is their fault, not the teachers'.

    I trust Dwight Jones about as far as I can throw him. And I have a bum shoulder.

  5. I'm curious as to the timeline of events in negotiations. When Jones got hired he solicited private funding for a consulting firm to look at district resources and programs. That report came back showing that the district spends more on administration and less on teachers/classrooms than similar districts. In a matter of weeks, it seems, the Administrators Union signed a sweetheart deal. Two thoughts come to mind: first, did administrators have any inside info on the results of this study that would lead them to settle quickly ? and, what the hell are administrators doing in a union anyway?????? I can understand program specialists, grant writers, etc. being covered but people like principals, vice principals and deans with authority to hire, fire, transfer and evaluate. If we condone this kind of stuff the next thing you'll see is a closed shop for lawyers.

  6. Isn't it something, when NV Energy Administration get another raise in salary and benefits, then our UTILITY bills to UP, and yet, teachers in the district, have NOT had a COLA in over 4 years!

    Everything is going UP, and teachers are continuously asked to take LESS every year. There is plenty of $$$ for school administration, yet teachers are asked to quit their whining and continue trying to make ends meet with a shrinking salary!

    Ever hear of the saying: too many chiefs and not enough Indians???

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  7. Teachers are being asked to do more and more. We are supposed to mentor and tutor students to help them pass proficiencies. Martinez wants us to develop relationships with students, but he has neglected to say how to do that successfully in a class of 40 students that we only see for 50 minutes per day. Any hints Mr. Martinez?

    The district asked all of the unions for concessions in the contracts. Yet when the administrators union and support staff union signed their contracts, the district got less than the dollar amount of concessions the budget had forecast. I guess the teachers union is supposed to take up the slack.

    Teachers are being asked to do more and more for less pay. Look at your school and the ages of the teachers. How many young people are going into teaching. I overheard a conversation yesterday as I was waiting to be seated. A couple in front of us was talking to the hostess and told her not to work for CCSD, and they were teachers. That is a sad commentary.

    There is a model for success in CCSD, but the board is ignoring that model. Why, because it doesn't fit what the district wants. If you look at the latest AYP report, you can look at the data for the ESD schools. Of the 23 high schools listed in ESD, 18 made AYP, or about 78%. This is well above the pass rate for other high schools. Why are the ESD schools doing so well? The class sizes are small, and the teachers are able to develop relationships with their students.

    http://media.lvrj.com/documents/no_child...

    If you want to help students, listen to the experts, the people who see them everyday, who know how they learn, and what works best for THEIR students, listen to teachers.

    "Teach them as you would teach your own, treat them as you would treat your own" That is the faculty credo for New Mexico Military Institute, but it really applies to every teacher. We teach, not to be rich, but to see the excitment in a child's eyes when they get a compliment, when they master a concept, and achieve a success that they never thought they could. We teach because we know that our future depends on the success of kids, not on the success of business, or cutting budgets.

  8. There used to be a time when teachers cared about the quality of education they provided to the kids.

    If you ask a teacher today what is most important to them is:
    1) Unions
    2) Teacher Pay
    3) More Teacher Pay
    4) More Vacation
    5) Unlimited Sick Time
    6) Very little expected of them - how can we teach if we have kids in our class
    7) Huge benefits
    8) Huge retirement

    and for that the teachers won't even smile.
    I say - CUT THEIR PAY...and replace them with the college graduate unemployed.
    They will do a far better job than the current crop of major league whiners.

  9. This is something that has been circulating among teachers for years, but the public needs to read it as well.

    This is from Taylor Mali

    A CEO, a teacher and others were at dinner, and the CEO
    says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
    from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
    He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about
    teachers:
    Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.
    I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
    and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
    that it's also true what they say about lawyers.
    Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.
    "I mean, you're a teacher, Taylor," he says.
    "Be honest. What do you make?"
    And I wish he hadn't done that
    (asked me to be honest)
    because, you see, I have a policy
    about honesty and ass-kicking:
    if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.
    You want to know what I make?
    I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
    I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
    and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
    How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.
    I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
    in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
    No, you may not ask a question.
    Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
    Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.
    I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
    I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
    I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
    Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
    And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.
    I make parents see their children for who they are
    and what they can be.
    You want to know what I make?
    I make kids pay attention for 50 minutes.
    I make kids wonder,
    I make them question.
    I make them criticize.
    I make them apologize and mean it.
    I make them write, write, write.
    And then I make them read.
    I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
    beautiful
    over and over and over again until they will never misspell
    either one of those words again.
    I make them show all their work in math.
    And hide it on their final drafts in English.
    I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
    then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
    by what you make, you give them this (talk to the hand).
    Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
    I make a difference! What do yu make?

  10. @loves to hike. What is the source of your information. I don't have time to worry about that stuff. I am too worried about making sure my students turn in their work, that my lesson plans are up to date, that my students are ready for the district common assessments, the practice proficiencies, and all of the other things we have to do. I teach at an alternative HS. You are more than welcome to do my job for a week, and then tell me I don't care about my students and what they learn and how they learn it.

  11. Comment removed by moderator. Off Topic

  12. I always wonder how people in position of power got there, especially in the field of education. All I hear and read about is numbers, data, money, and more numbers. What about children! We are tasked to educate the children and help them become contributing members of society!

    What is all this obsession about "showing off" how much they've grown? Long, long time ago, a report card to parents was sufficient. A diploma was all we needed and they were far more valuable and meaningful. Where did it all begin to take this insane obsession about numbers?

    "Ready by exit." Ready for what? It used to be ready for a job, now it is more like ready to recite numbers and phrases, but no clue about honesty, respect, responsibility, and resilience.

    We spend millions spitting out numbers which has nothing to do in making students successful or helping those who help them succeed.

    Wake up people and get your priorities in order!

  13. To Lovestohike: Who or what are your sources? Sounds like you manufactured your teacher's priorities rant#1-8 for your own self-agrandizement. Sorry, we cannot take YOUR rants#1-8 seriously, because you lack credibility and have NO real sources for this rant.

    If you sat in the staff lounge during lunch breaks, you would hear teachers engaged in discussing problems with children, how to strategize to improve academic and behavioral performances, and the list goes on. For the most part, teachers have big hearts, care deeply for children, will even use their own resources and pay towards helping children thrive in their classrooms.

    If lovestohike wants to follow me for a day, week, or month, their outlook would be quite different. It is obvious that lovestohike is not involved with their child/children, because if they were, they would notice the inordinate amount of time teachers spend revolved around their students and children, even volunteering their time with PTA, school and community activities, and seeking resources for the children.

    Parents and visitors are always welcome to visit a public school, we aren't hiding anything. Funny how those who are so negative about teachers or education, rarely to never bother to visit a school or classroom to increase their understanding. No, it is much easier to create baseless criticisms, be negative, and even hateful. The opportunity is there to gather some experiences and widen one's perspective.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  14. I have personal knowledge of teaching in the District in elementary schools since a family member of mine taught for 30 plus years, in at risk schools. I was in daily contact with both her and the classrooms she taught in for over half those years.

    She was dedicated and funded almost ALL of the classroom projects out of her own pocket. I observed her and others daily for years and, she was typical of almost all of her peers. She often worked 10-12 hour days and was often at the school on Saturday preparing for the next Monday's classes. Though she as off in the summer we often went to prep her classroom, in various ways, a month or even more ahead of the date to start. I was brought in to help the process and made some study devices and furniture for the classroom since the District had none to give. She belonged to the union but was never active in it. She was interested and committed to her job as a professional.

    I heard second hand about other teachers who were not professional nor committed to their positions. Most teachers looked down on the few slackers I heard about. I never saw one myself.

    Many teachers expressed frustration that poor teachers or kids who refused to learn could not be removed or disciplined. She brought home bruises on more than one occasion when a out of control child had struck her. She obviously was not inclined nor allowed to use more than passive restraint on the budding criminals. The school generally brought that parent in and the parent generally defended their darling of a criminal. Some kids were removed from homes by the county or welfare after one of these incidents but the school did little.

    I did see some who mildly complained they did not make enough money but I never saw the kids suffer due to any resentment by those very few teachers.

    I have my differences with some of the teacher's union and District priorities. The Federal Government seems to intrude with mandatory PC and subjects that seem to degrade the quality of schools instead of helping them. I honestly feel the Administrator and support positions use up money that should go to teachers, books, furniture, and study materials.

  15. Please keep in mind, that the schools are saddled with enormous debt liability in their obligations to the Federally mandated and UNfunded No Child Left Behind. And now, although it is what was needed a long, long, time ago, we have the new COMMON CORE STATE STANDARDS, which will put an additional financial burden on school districts. Please don't blame the teachers or unions for these.

    Thank You,
    Star

  16. For your information, Allaroundtown: at the end of the school year, teachers are REQUIRED to turn in their keys, which allow them within the school plant and their individual classrooms. Most teachers take home Teacher Editions for over the summer to plan for the up-coming school year, at home. They access interact to stay current with school and district updates.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star