Las Vegas Sun

July 30, 2014

Currently: 90° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

School District declares impasse in contract talks

Image

Steve Marcus

Teachers union president Ruben Murillo speaks during a Clark County School Board meeting at the Edward Greer Education Center on East Flamingo Road Wednesday, May 16, 2012. The board approved a final budget that will lay off 1,015 positions in order to balance the budget.

Updated Tuesday, June 26, 2012 | 5:08 p.m.

The Clark County School District declared an impasse today in its 2012-13 contract negotiations with the union representing district teachers.

Facing a $63 million budget deficit next school year, the School District is seeking "mix of concessions" with the Clark County Education Association to restore more than 1,000 teaching positions that were eliminated last month to bridge the shortfall, district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said.

The School District and its teachers union met five times, beginning in March. Their last meeting was on June 18. State law requires the district and the union to have at least four meetings before an impasse can be declared.

The decision to declare impasse was made after district correspondence to schedule additional negotiation dates with the union went unanswered, Fulkerson said. The School District has not declared impasse in at least 20 years, she added.

"Teachers deserve answers. We don't want to go through the entire school year without a contract again," Fulkerson said. "We want teachers to be focused on what's important – teaching – instead of worrying about their contracts."

However, the union claimed in a statement that the School District acted prematurely. The district and the union were scheduled with meet on July 11, but "CCSD unilaterally walked away from the negotiation table," according to a union press release.

"It is unfortunate that Superintendent (Dwight) Jones has taken this action," the union statement read. "The District's actions will not put one laid-off teacher back in the classroom."

Union President Ruben Murillo, who was traveling out of town, did not return calls for comment.

In a news release, the district indicated it expected this upcoming school year’s negotiations again would lead to binding arbitration. By declaring the impasse, the district said it wanted to move “the inevitable process of involving a third-party arbitrator forward.”

A year ago, the district’s negotiations with teachers didn’t begin until July. Those talks ultimately failed and the sides turned to binding arbitration after the teachers union declared impasse on Aug. 10.

The arbitrator’s decision, which sided with the teachers union, came down May 2. The arbitrator found, in part, that because the district had paid out salary step and education increases to teachers throughout the year, it had the ability to continue to do so.

The ruling, the district said, forced it to eliminate 1,015 teaching positions, including the layoff of 419 teachers. As a result, average class sizes are expected to rise by three students next school year.

The School District does not want a repeat of that scenario, Fulkerson said, adding that the district hoped to continue negotiations despite the impasse. The union has used "stall tactics" in the past, forcing the school district and teachers into contract limbo, she said.

"History has shown us this will get dragged out," Fulkerson said. "If we're going to be faced with delay tactics, it is good we're declaring impasse now."

The union responded by calling on the Clark County School Board to instruct Jones to return to the negotiating table to restore teachers to the classroom before the start of the school year.

Further, the School District has no need to force concessions – "unreasonable demands" – of its teachers, because there is still room in the budget to cut, the union said.

More than 600 teachers have left the district through retirements and resignations, saving the district $44 million in teacher salaries, the union said.

Moreover, the School District has allocated $15 million in non-instructional expenditures – such as central and school administration and communications – that could put 204 teachers back in the classroom, the union said.

In response, the School District said it was hoping to replenish teacher ranks to restore class sizes, which are already among the highest in the nation. Furthermore, the district has cut more than $500 million since 2007, Fulkerson said.

"We want to live within our means and protect (teacher) jobs," Fulkerson said. "This (impasse) is something we want to do."

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. to airhead: if high teacher pay equated to high literacy rates and high quality education the taxpayers would fund it with few limits. It has been proven over and over that it does not, and part of that is the difficulty, created by unions, in getting rid of bad teachers.

  2. stopthebs:If administration would collect the data required to fire inferior teachers, the problem would be solved using a uniform and precise mechanism for termination. The school district does and will continue to fire teachers who cannot perform the job at hand. The one hundred teachers that are classified per evaluation as sub standard should be let go via the regular channels now in place. If, the district can lay off teachers without regard to seniority many fine senior teachers may suddenly start receiving low marks on evaluations just to save money. The two issues should be separate so that children can receive the best instruction from the most qualified regardless of the issue of salary savings. The district closed 1015 teaching jobs for a savings of $60,000,000 and reduced teacher pay by 1.5 to pay their share of retirement costs in July of 2011 for a total savings of $70,000,00 which is more than the $60,000,000 needed to close the budget gap.

  3. The administrative costs does seem to be an issue that the community, school board, and the media are reluctant to talk about. It always seems to be assumed that the teachers are the villains, while the administrators would never engage in anything unseemly (like conspiring with a local think tank to discourage union membership among teachers). Their hands are clean in all of this, right? Their message, delivered consistently by PR pro Ms. Fulkerson, seems to be the only one the community wants to listen to. Good thing, too, since her office staff alone costs CCSD $700,000 per year.

    It has been documented in the comments on education stories what the district pays its office staff, and numerous coordinators, directors, assistants, spokespeople, etc. for their many different office buildings throughout the county; all people who have zero direct impact on the education of any child the CCSD serves. The calls to thin those ranks of six-figure earners are oddly non-existent.

    But the ones who care for the kids all day, every day need to be culled, their pay cut, and their voices silenced. That makes no sense to me.

  4. We can't tell if the administrators are doing the job, but many teachers certainly are not. It should not take massive amounts of documentation to dump a non-productive teacher, whether s/he has tenure or not. Impasse? What a surprise. De-certify the union and move on. Teachers are supposed to be professionals--without unions. There are several layers of redundancy already. No need for more.

  5. "We can't tell if the administrators are doing the job..." That right there should be a little disconcerting for you, Roslenda, considering what those admins are being paid. But you don't even touch that. No one wants to talk about that for some reason. Also, if a principal cannot provide "massive amounts" of documentation (positive or negative) on the teachers at a school, that principal is not doing his or her job.

    Principals, vice principals, office managers, administrative assistants, CCSD police, and facilities workers all belong to unions, whether they work at a school site or in one of the many district offices county-wide. All are professionals. Why is it that the teachers alone among them should be "without unions"?

  6. I have to agree with at least part of Bob Realist's astute commentary.

    "As the administration grows there needs to be a sacrifice somewhere and in the mind of Dwight Jones, teachers are not essential when it comes to education. We need to cut our losses, release Jones before he becomes vested" "and evaluate WHY we have so many administrators in schools and at headquarters."

    The happenings of just the last couple weeks alone warrant at least this. Not only did CCSD sign a contract to hire a ton of -TeachForAmerica- teachers for salary PLUS a profit to TFA, but they also resigned a contract to Edison (privatized school management systems), which has failed to produce improvements in over a decade AND requires a hefty contract price. ALL data shows that these are bad decisions.

    Jeremiah Allen is ALSO correct when he states,
    "The administrative costs does seem to be an issue that the community, school board, and the media are reluctant to talk about. It always seems to be assumed that the teachers are the villains, while the administrators would never engage in anything unseemly (like conspiring with a local think tank to discourage union membership among teachers- Which Ms. Fulkerson admitted to on Twitter- I have screenshots). Their hands are clean in all of this, right? Their message, delivered consistently by PR pro Ms. Fulkerson, seems to be the only one the community wants to listen to. Good thing, too, since her office staff alone costs CCSD $700,000 per year.
    The calls to thin those ranks of six-figure earners are oddly non-existent.

    But the ones who care for the kids all day, every day need to be culled, their pay cut, and their voices silenced. That makes no sense to me."

  7. You cannot have a successful literacy program when the incoming students are NOT proficient in the language in which school is taught. Students who cannot speak the language (American-English or whatever), mixed into a class with English speaking children will be slowed down to have to clarify fundamentals. That slows the whole class down. And has been stated here on the Sun numerous times, at least with the Latino population, their friend and family either do not speak or choose to converse in English. So how are we to make the children more literate. Make sure they have a basic understanding of the English language. Is that for the schools to teach......NOT during regular class but after class maybe the Prez and Obamnisty can free up some special interest $$$$ to have a program started to teach basic literacy skills BEFORE they are thrown into a classroom situation.

    I would like to see a study done based upon performance, literacy AND ethnicity. I am sure that would open up some eyes REAL quick.

  8. I encourage all of you to become educated on the issues, since neither the Sun nor the RJ seems to be interested in discussing them.

    First of all, as a teacher, I am more than willing to sacrifice my pay provided that we are not the only ones sacrificing. We dug in our heels last year because the administrators got a sweetheart contract, Jones was adding a ton of central office administration/support staff, and to be perfectly blunt, we don't trust Jones or his lead negotiator Dr. Eddie Goldman. I would also like to see Jones lead by example and cut his own salary. Walt Rulfuss did before he asked us for concessions, and I think a lot of teachers respected him for it.

    Secondly, CCSD attempted last year to destroy our health care, which is why a lot of teachers supported the CCEA's stance. The proposals put forth by the CCSD would have saved absolutely no money... so why did they do it?

    Third, teacher morale is at an all-time low. We don't trust Jones and crew to make decisions that are best for teachers, or for that matter, students. Why would he need a huge "communications" office, anyway? Do we really want teachers with poor morale teaching our kids?

    If you want to see teachers make sacrifices, then those sacrifices must first come from the top. Jones needs to lead by example, as do the administrators, then come and talk to us. We'll be more than happy to listen at that point.

    Oh, and one other thing: from personal experience, I can say that we are losing a lot of really good teachers. Many of our experienced teachers are taking early retirement and/or moving to other places to teach. This trend will continue, I fear..

  9. CCSD is too large to control so many schools. It's obvious that NLV, LV, and Henderson should be broken into separate independent districts. Better controls, better results. Of course, this will never happen, because Henderson would lead in every category, every year. So instead, we dumb down the whole giant district. Green Valley needs to be treated like Rancho, etc. What a mess...

  10. Tanker1975...

    Thank you for taking the time to tell it like it is.

    dtc...
    Astute observation, indeed.

    xtlman...
    Mark, you are correctamundo, sir. Muy verdad, amigo.

  11. Gee, Arizona is able to teach them all to read and write English for $1,000 per student per year LESS than CCSD. Might be that they have larger classes, longer school days, longer school years, and pay their teachers less. When so many teachers and their union simple refuse to deal with reality, stop the nonsense and make the administrative decisions without their input. Keep (rate high) those teachers without self-discipline issues such as ranting in the streets or in meetings, those who teach the kids to read and write, those who realize that while pay cuts are not desired, it is sometimes NECESSARY. We have taxed our economy into dysfunction and must reverse some of it. We must repeal those endless bond issues and stop rolling over bond issues. We must get teachers back into the class rooms and out of the social welfare food drives. Sure there are kids who are hurting but they have adults in their lives and it is THOSE adults who are obligated to care for their children. If a kid is so abused, call CPS.

  12. Quote: "CCSD is too large to control so many schools. It's obvious that NLV, LV, and Henderson should be broken into separate independent districts. Better controls, better results. Of course, this will never happen, because Henderson would lead in every category, every year. So instead, we dumb down the whole giant district. Green Valley needs to be treated like Rancho, etc. What a mess.."

    First, as per the Nevada Constitution- each county shall have and maintain its own school district.... that reason 1 why CCSD will not be split

    Reason 2 is that it will not save money... WILL NOT. Can Green Valley pay for its own transportation, own Superintendent, own school board, own food service, etc. with the same amount of money the state currently gives per student?

    The cost will go up, as each smaller district will have to contend with funding its own running costs, costs which now the larger CCSD pays as a collective. You complain about the school board now, imagine if each smaller school district each had their own- it's redundant and a much larger waste of tax payer money.

    Additionally, Green Valley, Coronado, Silverado HS didn't make AYP and all three are on the watch list. Greenspun and Burkholder MS are "In need of improvement year 1" (haven't made AYP in 2 years). I didn't have time to look up the rest, but you get the point. Please don't stereotype students and schools by the area in which they live. Henderson would not lead.

    You can go to nevadareportcard.com to see info on all schools in Nevada.

    Smaller districts are not the panacea for better education. There is no research that shows students from smaller districts learn more. There is no research that says smaller districts are better controlled.

  13. Rosalinda:

    "Arizona is able to teach them all to read and write English for $1,000 per student per year LESS than CCSD."

    Show me where CCSD isn't teaching students to read. We've also been over this before. Arizona ranks no higher than Nevada on the National Assessment (NAEP) and in 3 out of 4 tests Nevada scored higher than Arizona. Your "facts" don't measure up.

    "Might be that they have larger classes, longer school days, longer school years, and pay their teachers less. "

    Again, research showing that longer school day and year are sketchy at best. For example when it's reported that school children attend school from September to July, they fail to mention the number of holidays, or even when in September and July. It seems like a longer year, however students could actually be attending class less than 180 days within that time frame.

    Additionally, when discussing the length of the school day, often times the hour lunch students have to go home to eat isn't reported.

    When an average of 20-35 days a year are lost to behavior issues in the US classroom, adding days becomes an algebra equation. You need to add 28 days to make up 26 days lost in the original 180. (assuming at 30 minutes lost per day to lose 20 per year). So in a sense, Adding 28 days only adds 2 days to the year...

    Year round school also doesn't show an increase in learning, retention or test scores. We did that here for years and everyone complained about it!

    "Keep (rate high) those teachers without self-discipline issues such as ranting in the streets or in meetings, those who teach the kids to read and write, those who realize that while pay cuts are not desired, it is sometimes NECESSARY."

    So you are in favor of firing teachers who exercise their First Amendment rights? hmmm, and we wonder why there is a process for firing and why there is a union. Show me a uniform way to prove the teacher is teaching kids to read and write (as you put it), how does that system work for PE teachers? or HS Calculus teachers? Or the computer teacher? It's all well and good to spout off about how to get rid of teachers or to evaluate teachers, but what most people fail to grasp is that 1) that system needs to be fair and 2) it needs to be uniform across all teachers... ALL. That's why we have the system we have. My job is no different or harder than a HS calculus teacher (algebra to a 10 year old is like calculus to a 16 year old) we need to be evaluated the same.

    Teachers aren't against "getting rid of the bad teachers" as the saying goes. The issue begins when discussing what a bad teacher is, and making sure it is documented so principals can designate a teacher "Bad" because they don't like their politics, or they got pregnant, or because they wore jeans on Tuesday.

  14. While I'm at it, we all realize pay cuts are necessary. That is why teacher salaries have been frozen for the past 3 years. That is why we have given up cost of living increases and PERS increases, and that is why extra money is taken out of paychecks now for retirement health benefits.

    We realize this. We also realize that the district negotiated to give us our education raises earned. And mind you, those increases went only to teachers who took classes and earned degrees. My salary stayed the same- I have seen no "raise".

    When an employer negotiates in what is perceived to be good faith and then comes back 2-3 months after having given you the raise and says "We need the money back" that is no longer good faith, good business practice, or good contracting practices. That is why we said no.

    For the record, my husband is one of the teachers that got pink slipped, and I still say give the teachers the increase they earned. It's not about the money, or being bad teachers, or throwing our co-workers under the bus. It's about being screwed over. If the district couldn't fulfill its promise it needed to figure it out sooner, come to use sooner, and not tried to take everything away (including our health care) prior to trying to take back the money they had already paid teachers. They should have negotiated in good faith.

    That was (and is) the issue.

    Amanda Fulkerson said the district hadn't declared an impasse for 20 years.... I wonder why that would be. It couldn't possibly be the way our new superintendent is running things, or the way his communication department is "communicating" with the teachers.

  15. By BT4PublicEd, who commented, "Tanker1975 has provided a list of salaries for employees in the CCSD's Propaganda.. I mean, Communications Department, arriving at total of $696,725 annually. This equates to 34.8% of the department's annual $2 million budget. At the same time, the school district has reminded us several times that salaries account for 85% of the district's budget, which of course includes teachers, support staff, and administration. Assuming the salaries of those individuals who work in the Communications office are in line with the overall amount spent on personnel throughout the district, it would stand to reason that the entire annual budget for the Communications Department should be somewhere around $820,000.

    Obviously, the district has to spend money on things that don't actually make their way into the classroom (janitorial supplies, toilet paper, various repair items, etc.), so it's reasonable to assume that less than 15 cents of every dollar is actually spent in classrooms. By contrast, 65.2 cents of every dollar allocated to the Communications Department is spent on expenses other than salaries. Really? Does the value added to educating students (the school district's primary function) honestly warrant spending 65.2 cents of every dollar allocated to that department's annual budget... or is it possible that the budget for the Communications Department is just ONE OF MANY items in the district's budget where money that should be going to help better educate students is shifted in an effort to add false credibility (oxymoron, I know) to the superintendent's claim that there's no money for teacher salaries, making lay-offs necessary? I do believe I smell a rat!

    I think it's time a thorough audit of every line item in the CCSD budget be conducted by an independent, outside accounting firm. We cannot count upon the school board trustees to oversee this, as they're given only the information the superintendent wants them to see. However, we should insist that the trustees demand an audit of this money-guzzling behemoth of a school district, and without undue influence from the superintendent! The public should demand this!" This needs to be not only said, but followed up!
    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  16. Commenter Tanker1975 stated, "@sebring:

    Allison Serafin who won the primary for State School Board in District 3 is a consultant for Jones. She is also the former executive director for Nevada for Teach for America. She raised 60K in campaign contributions, while her FOUR opponents raised a total of 19K between them. Who is funding her.

    In his biography on the CCSD website, Jones says that he was a former executive with Edison Learning.

    As the late Artie Johnson would say, "VVVVVVVery interesting." And quite an interesting connection, I think! Tanker1975 reveals what is public record on his posts, and I wholeheartedly support those posts.

    On one comment Melissa Smith made, "First, as per the Nevada Constitution- each county shall have and maintain its own school district.... that reason 1 why CCSD will not be split." Permit me to provide examples, that while this is true here in Nevada (while it had a low population-which no longer is the case), and other states, that county schools are the umbrella for all the school districts under them, example being in California, Riverside County Office of Education oversees the many districts under them, as: Lake Elsinore USD, Temecula USD, Menifee USD, Murrieta USD, Hemet USD, etc., Nevada only recently had the growth to where splitting county served schools into smaller district run schools were even financially feasiable. Not only would this be a POSITIVE thing to do, but it would CREATE more jobs!!! All those college graduates would actually have jobs waiting for them! Imagine that. Service is more personal, professional, and customer service satisfaction is greatly enhanced. Folks who are not happy with a district have the option to seek another to their satisfaction. Salaries and benefits are competitive, as well as favorable "working environments".

    Nevada has had growth challenges. Education in the rurals tend to be better, because of greater involvement with school, community, and family. They have a more personal, professional feel to them. They ooze caring, where the village pulls together for a student. With smaller districts, all parties communicate, are respected, and play on a level field. You don't not see any mass exoduses from such schools or small districts. And they LIKE keeping them small. That is my civilian and professional experiences for the record.

    The reality is, that the poor and those with learning challenges will always be with us. It is how we approach and remendy those issues that always seem up for debate. Money helps, but is not the end all.

    Finally, ShannonK stated, "I'd like to know what CCSD is wanting in the contract, what CCEA wants in the contract, and why there is an impasse. It's difficult to make any kind of intelligent comment about this story without that information. Why does it seem to be secret? Can the Sun report on that?" Fair question, ShannonK!!!

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star