Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2014

Currently: 81° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

School District to lay off 1,015 teachers, literacy specialists

Image

Justin M. Bowen / Las Vegas Sun

In this May 11, 2011, file photo, Arthur Gamboa leads a discussion with students in his Modern Literature class at Palo Verde High School. The School District has announced plans to lay off 1,015 teachers and literacy specialists.

Updated Wednesday, May 16, 2012 | 3:52 p.m.

The beleaguered Clark County School District announced today it will send pink slips to 1,015 teachers and literacy specialists next month, triggering the worst-case scenario in dealing with a $64 million budget shortfall.

Under the final budget plan being voted on at Wednesday’s School Board meeting, the district will lay off 840 teachers and 175 literacy specialists, which include librarians and reading coaches. The layoffs represent about 6 percent of the district’s 18,000 licensed employees.

If approved, the layoffs would constitute the largest actual “reduction in force” in the district’s recent history. The Clark County School District — the fifth largest in the nation — is the largest public employer in Nevada with more than 37,300 total employees.

Upon hearing the news of layoffs, the local and state teachers union immediately slammed the School District’s decision, arguing the district has plenty of money to avert layoffs.

The official layoff announcement comes two weeks after an arbitrator sided with the local teachers union on pay raises, capping a bitter 10-month contract battle between the School District and the Clark County Education Association.

Facing a $63.9 million budget deficit, the School District sought concessions from its teachers union to balance its budget. The May 2 arbitration decision forced the district to continue paying salary step and continuing education increases to teachers throughout this school year.

Because salary and benefits constitute nearly 90 percent of the School District’s nearly $2.1 billion general fund budget, the layoffs were inevitable, Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones said. The layoffs are expected save the district about $60.1 million, nearly the size of the deficit.

“The position reductions are necessary in order to accommodate teacher step increases and education increments,” Jones said in an internal memo to school principals sent Wednesday morning. “We will continue to negotiate with CCEA in an effort to find a way to bring back teaching positions.”

The School District’s 357 schools are staffed at 98 percent at the elementary level and 100 percent at the middle and high school levels. The district’s final budget proposes staffing allocations to 93 percent across the board, according to Jones’ memo.

In November, Jones warned principals to prepare a contingency plan to shed about 6 percent of school staff should the teachers union prevail in arbitration.

Most schools are likely to shed between two and five teachers, depending on grade level and student enrollment numbers.

Elementary schools with fewer than 400 students would have no layoffs, according to the district’s internal memo at the time. High schools with more than 2,635 students could lose up to seven licensed positions, according to the memo.

The teacher layoffs will further stress classrooms already brimming with students. In 2009, Nevada had the sixth highest ratio of students to teachers in the nation, according to the most recent state data available.

As a result of the teacher layoffs, average class sizes are expected to go up between two and three students, according to the district.

Middle and high schools will have average class sizes of 34 and 35 students. Elementary schools will have average class sizes of 20 to 21 in the first to third grades, and average class sizes of 33 and 34 in the fourth and fifth grades.

The School District is trying to identify funding “within existing resources” to provide additional support to the most overcrowded elementary schools in the valley, according to the district. This support includes additional custodians and teachers aides, portable restrooms and cafeterias, and changes in bus transportation and traffic patterns around campus.

If the seven-member School Board approves the final budget, pink slips are scheduled to go out to affected teachers and literacy specialists during the second week of June – within the 30 day notice period required by contract – according to Jones’ memo.

Some teachers will be protected from layoffs because of their specialized knowledge, district officials said.

Math, science and special education teacher positions are expected to be safe, officials said. Positions are also safeguarded at the district’s “turnaround” schools: Chaparral, Mojave, Rancho and Western high schools and Elizondo, Hancock and Kit Carson elementary schools, officials said.

Because of the arbitration ruling, the School District must comply with its teachers union’s layoff guidelines, which follows a new state law that would base layoffs first on teacher performance, and second on seniority.

Under the union’s reduction-in-force proposal, teachers with a five-day or longer suspension for bad behavior during the last two contract years would be laid off first. (Next school year, teachers with two unsatisfactory performance evaluations in two consecutive years would be laid off second.)

Thirty-eight teachers have received disciplinary action in the last two years, according to the district. Therefore, the majority of the 840 teacher layoffs would be based on seniority, which means the brunt of the layoffs will still fall on new teachers.

The School District is now trying to negotiate with the teachers union on the terms of the reduction in force. Instead of seniority, the district wishes to lay off teachers who have been suspended in descending order, from most to least.

“The archaic status quo harms young, outstanding teachers,” the School District said in a comment released Wednesday.

Teachers union President Ruben Murillo said he still contends the School District has the money to avoid layoffs.

"We believe adamantly that the district doesn't have to lay off teachers," he said. "There are several areas we have found in the budget that will bridge the gap."

Murillo pointed to the arbitration decision, which found that the School District has the money to fund step and education increases under its contract with teachers. He also added that the School District is reporting an ending fund balance of $40 million, which, he said, could help offset the layoffs.

Claudia Briggs, the communications director with the National Education Association's Nevada chapter — an umbrella organization of the local teachers union — said the School District is using a scare tactic by using the term "layoffs" to describe what she and Jones called "position reductions."

The School District may lay off fewer than 1,015 teachers, she said, because the 1,015 figure doesn't account for unfilled positions and annual teacher resignations and retirements. These vacant positions, as well as yearly teacher attrition, may nullify the need for actual layoffs, Briggs said.

It is unknown how many vacant funded positions there are in the School District. Officials will not know how many teachers will be leaving the district until the end of the school year. Murillo contends between 500 and 800 teachers on average will leave the district, which may soften the blow of layoffs.

Regardless of the number of vacant positions or teacher attrition, average class sizes will still go by as many as three students, School District spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said.

"Hopefully with retirements, we can backfill some of these numbers," she said. "But keep in mind, classroom sizes will still rise because when you're cutting positions, you can't refill them."

That has Murillo pointing fingers at the state Legislature, which he says has not funded public education adequately. Murillo said he would like to see School Board members take a more active role in urging the state for more education funding.

"The School Board needs to put the money where their mouth is," he said. "Teacher morale has never been lower. Teachers are ready to fight this reduction in force, for better working conditions and for more education funding."

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: 29 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. Bet ya $50 the union fights tooth and nail for bad teachers with seniority vs. good teachers with less so!

  2. So they require teachers to take classes for license renewal, which teachers pay for out of their own pocket. Then CCSD says if you spend your own money to go beyond a 4 year Bachelor's degree, we will payyou for it. Then they expect you to not take the salary increase. Fine, then give back the money the teachers spent on those classes, and CCSD can keep the increases. Never mind the fact that teachers spend thousands of dollars out of their pockets each year for classroom supplies CCSD does not supply. If CCSD had to pay teachers for all the extra time they work without getting paid, it would gop broke in a month.

    Well I guess Dwight Jones can always give up his 40% pay increase. After all, he hasn't earned it.

  3. to all those residents that enjoyed a good public education...
    whose children enjoyed a good public education...
    who now refuse to properly fund this school system...
    shame on you...
    and remember this...
    karma can be a son of a gun!!!

  4. This was to be expected... the teacher's union has always chosen to be selfish and protect the longest tenured instructors. My neighbor is a teacher in this district and stated bluntly to me that she had paid her dues and younger/newer teachers need to understand that she WOULD NOT take any cuts. Wow... teaching our children the basics of how/why this great nation is 15 trillon dollars in debt? The economy is down, so tax revenue is down and thankfully spending must be down in this state. Maybe she should take a simple economics 101 remedial course. Oh... she is a democrat, but that is something that would surprise no one.

  5. Test the teachers. Do polls from the students. Check grades of classes overall.

    Guarantee its all the "loyal" old teachers that will end up at the bottom of the scoreboard.

    Unions are a joke.

    It's no wonder everyone is putting their kids in $10k plus a year private schools in Vegas.

  6. Again, let's keep in mind that the result of the arbitration was a finding that THE SCHOOL DISTRICT DOES HAVE THE MONEY to pay the teachers.

    So they are not laying off teachers because they HAVE to...they are laying off teachers because they CHOOSE to.

    Clark County School District has chosen to spend the money in other areas, despite being required by contract to use it for teacher pay, and is now saying that they have no choice but to lay off teachers as a result.

    Pretty much the same as if I owe you money and then tell you I can't pay you back...even though I actually have enough money in the bank to pay you, I just have it "set aside" to buy a new computer and a vacation next month.

  7. @ sevenhills, even better, lets test the parents. Lets see how active they are in their child's education. Fine them for not checking parentlink, fine them for not attending open house, fine them for all missed homework, fine them for reproducing nitwits.

  8. So birdieman I went to all catholic schools my whole life. never public schoools but yet my parents paid taxes to support them, this was back east. So what say you about the fact that for all those years my parents supported public education and yet I didn't use it. Should they be reimbursed?
    And since my education was more costly than a public school education should we have funding to support that. Just wondering.

  9. Question: Is it a thousand pink slips before or after the 700-1000 teachers that are expected to retire? If it does not count retirements, then the net effect will be more crowded classrooms, with few teachers actually losing their positions.

    It may be wishful thinking, but I wish that all sides could come up with a solution that would mitigate the harmful effects of crowded classrooms on students.

  10. @VegasHope:

    Thanks for your question and comment. CCSD's announcement about the reduction of 1,015 positions does not account for any teacher retirements and resignations at this time. The School District will not have the full accounting of these figures until the end of this school year.

  11. The whole thing with the literacy specialists being laid off is basically a sham. The district was planning to get rid of those positions on paper anyway. Now, they are being replaced with learning coaches that are funded by grants. In effect, those 175 jobs are not lost, just shuffled to a new title and a new funding source.

    As for the rest, there is almost no doubt that retirements and resignations will cover them. Oh, and what about all those open positions at transfer time? There were about 1,200 of them. Where did those go?

  12. Coherent article. I hope Mr. Takahashi and colleagues understand the hyperbole when teachers claim class sizes are over 50. They act like Chorus, Band, and such are the norm. It sounds like CCSD is taking appropriate action. There may be more of the same after count day--when CCSD sees that we've lost population, lost students. I like the "test the teachers" idea for when we need to thin the ranks say in elementary schools.

  13. How many people posting here would give up your raise so new people could be hired at your place of employment. Teachers have already given up enough raises. Time for the people of Nevada to understand it is good for the economy to have a well educated society and fund K-12 and higher education appropriately.

    Totally agree with jfamily31 - we need to be grading the parents on participation in their children's education.

  14. Guest, too bad that some teachers spent money on graduate degree classes thinking that the CCSD would give them a raise. But teachers always tell students to go to college and not to worry about the cost--looks like they inexplicably took their own bad advice and got scammed.

  15. manfromuncle1: Teachers didn't "think" that CCSD would give them a raise...they had a contract that said that CCSD would pay them x-amount of money if they completed x-amount of education.

  16. Chunky says:

    No government, government program, business, family or individual can sustain spending more than they receive in revenue.

    Taxpayers have shown little appetite or interest in increasing the already oppressive tax burden.

    Balance the budget and make do with what we have!

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  17. If Balancing the budget means cuts than so be it. You can't legislate that taxpayer make more money. This is from not doing ANYTHING when the economy TANKED ALMOST FOUR YEARS AGO. ARE WE IN THIS MUCH DENIAL OF THE RECOVERY PROCESS OF A BAD ECONOMY AND HOW IT WILL PROBABLY TAKE MANY MANY YEARS WITH NEVER BEING THE SAME. You are right that there is money to be had it is in the over entitlements and salaries.

  18. THIS BEARS REPEATING...

    From the writer of the story, Paul Takahashi, responding to an earlier commenter;

    "Thanks for your question and comment. CCSD's announcement about the reduction of 1,015 positions does not account for any teacher retirements and resignations at this time. The School District will not have the full accounting of these figures until the end of this school year."

    Well, there you go!
    There will be at LEAST A THOUSAND that will not be coming back for a variety of reasons.

    THIS is a load of dung served up by your Cutter in Chief,
    Mr. Dwight Jones...
    As the arbitrator stated;
    THERE IS MONEY TO PAY THE TEACHERS.
    The district just has priorities other than fulfilling their contractual obligations, much like the 'Too Big to Fail' bunch.
    I guess DOING THE RIGHT THING is passe in 2012.

  19. Lay them all off - and perhaps add a few more....
    We have had to endure horrible taxes for the teachers to spit in our faces for so so long...
    They refuse to listen to the tax payer and puts a union in place.
    They put in place LOTS of cushy perks for themselves - something the taxpayer does not have.
    They have their unions bankroll political campaigns for the horrible Reid who has failed to do a good job for Nevada.
    They spit in the face of those who say get rid of the over paid administrators. We have way way way too many at the local level; state level; and national level.
    When the teachers finally ask for the federal government to stop their Department of Education then we know that the teachers are finally to think locally.

    In the meantime, LAY THEM ALL OFF.
    WE ARE REJOICING IN THIS AS THEY LAID THEIR OWN WAY TO UNEMPLOYMENT.

    And if it was all about the kids and not the unions; their perks; their short hours; their summer vacation; their this and that...

    we would have enough money for our kids already.

    But the teachers are all about them,.

  20. The district's management team should have its collective butt kicked for some very poor fiscal financial planning, even in light of lower tax revenue the past few years. Has no one ever hear the story of "The Ant and the Grasshopper"? Continuing to fund anything beyond the basics, while laying off employees is utter nonsense.

    In kind, the teacher's union needs to come down off it's "throne-on-high" and reread "The Emperor's New Clothes". Continuing to dress-up poor performance under a transparent guise of seniority is completely at odds with any sound thought process.

    That said, this eternal and infernal game of one-upmanship between the parties needs to stop and it needs to stop now. It's high time to remember that the purpose of the school system is not so management can ineptly overlord the employees nor is it for employees to sacrifice the competent for the ineffective.

    The district exist but for one purpose: to educate students. Let's all remember that and move back to the bargaining table.

  21. 1) Just because you attended school, and/or are a current taxpayer doesn't make you an expert on education. Teaching is not a science. It is an art, one that is mastered through a lot of time and effort.
    2) You get what you pay for: if low taxes solved everything, then we would have low unemployment. The ONLY way out of this recession is to educate our children better, even if that means we ALL have to sacrifice.
    3) Having been a teacher for nearly a decade, I have seen both good and bad teachers. I am a member of the Union, and would never want them to protect a bad teacher. The union protects your rights, not your job. If an administrator actually does their job, you can fire a bad teacher. I've seen that happen, too.
    4) As a teacher, I support a fair way to rate teachers. Here's a challenge to all of you armchair quarterbacks: create one. Make sure you take into consideration the various home lives of the students, and the fact that a student is in my classroom approximately 9,506 minutes per school year and about 244,000 minutes per school year elsewhere. Make a fair system, and you'll be a millionaire. People have been trying to do it for years.
    5) The teachers union offered concessions. The district refused it because they didn't get everything they wanted. They returned with an offer that was insulting. We are not the enemy: we are hardworking public servants who care deeply for our students and our community.
    6) No teacher I have talked to has any confidence in or respect for Dwight Jones. The sooner he is gone, the better. Under his leadership, the district is bankrupt, teacher morale is horrible, and test scores still haven't improved. Cut this guy loose!

  22. Mr. Jzetzsman...

    Perfectly stated.

    Mr. Lamy...

    your usual astute observations;
    "It's not up to the teacher. It takes a village."

    Yup!

  23. It would seem a lot of the people making comments really do understand the problem. It would seem a lot more of you don't have a clue. You nice folks suggesting we lay them all off, or fire them all fail to take into account the consequences of all those kids running around unsupervised all day procreating, burglarizing, shoplifting, doing drugs. The list goes on and on. I can't wait to see how things look in about 5 or 10 more years. Why anyone would want to be a teacher is beyond my understanding.

  24. @airweare (Joe Lamy) -

    Did you intend to include sleeping time in that 244,000 minutes? If so, you really have a knack for playing with numbers. One can't use "normal" sleeping hours to teach (not you, not me), so to compare your teaching time to my "home teaching" time that includes 8 hours of sleep for my child (and me) is not a valid comparison. Looks impressive for the teacher, at least on paper anyway, doesn't it?

    The "teach-opportunity" time at home is, much more realistically, 5 to 6 hours per day (not including meal times, hygiene time, ect). So that is about 54 hours a week times 26 weeks (w/ weekends), or about 84,250 minutes (a good long ways off from 244,000).

    Number Spinning aside...

    I spend 2 hours a day with my son, every week day. I work with him on his assignments (math, spelling, reading, vocabulary, et. al.). That's 120 min a day, 5 days a week, 26 weeks - 15,600 minutes a school year.

    Now, I also spend, on average, 4 hours per weekend just with him (not watching TV, video games, etc). Taking him to the library, helping him to learn to be a critical thinker (so he can see how figures can be "improved" to make an invalid comparison); and how to use common sense - add in another 26 week-ends @480 minutes for 6240 additional minutes.

    During the year I take him, and only he and I, on an educational vacation, 5 to 7 full days - at least 40 hours total; let's add in 2400 more minutes.

    During the year, he and I camp with the Boy Scouts (add in 2400 more minutes). We attend about four hours of scout meetings a month (26 weeks * 1 hour is 1560 minutes).

    There are more examples, but the above will suffice - my son is learning during our times together, maybe not the structured book learning of a sit-down-listen-to-the-teacher learning, it's much more hands on and practical.

    The total time I spend in good, solid, quality time teaching my son, working with my son, nurturing my son is at least 28,200 minutes per year... about three times as much as a school teacher, like yourself, might see him....

    Now, maybe you'll say I'm not like most Fathers because most don't put in the sheer number of hours I do - maybe that's true; maybe you'll say that, because I don't have a teaching credential, I can't possibly have any idea what I'm talking about - but here you would be totally wrong (I do hold five different engineering degrees, one business degree, and more professional licenses and certifications than I'd be polite to count out here - and I used to substitute teach in public & private schools).

    I'll guess I'll wrap up by offering this:

    "Remember that there's always someone smarter than you, dumber than you, more confused than you, less lost than you, more secure, less confident, more sensitive, less reserved, more dysfunctional, etc. Enjoy the benefits of meeting some, and show compassion for the others; tomorrow the roles may be reversed. (Sherrill Zucker,2008-An Open Letter to My College-Bound Son)

  25. The problem is not with the union or Jones - it's with the Governor and Republican leaders who continue to keep funding of education low in Nevada. We've kept the "No New Taxes" thing around for awhile now and we still have the highest unemployment; maybe we should pay a bit more to get schools that people want and our community can be proud of. There is nothing more to cut and we just need more money, plain and simple!

  26. @ airweare (Joe Lamy) -

    Thanks for the links, I'll take a look-see.

    regards,

    ...dan...

  27. NEGATIVE raises as in negative COL. We've deflated our economy and it's past time to DEFLATE COMPENSATION.

  28. hugapug: Why does K-12 in Nevada cost $1,000 per student per year more than Arizona. Arizona gets graduates who can read and write. Why are we pouring money down a black hole?

  29. Sorry BChap, but your fictional exchange between Superintendant Jones and the Teachers would be far more accurate if it read like this:

    Superintendent Jones: Teachers, I know you were promised by contract an apple from the tree. However, as you can see there are no apples available for me to give you from this tree.

    Teachers: Yes, there are a few apples on the tree. I can see them. I want them. I deserve them. Give it to me gosh darn it!!!

    Superintendent Jones: Those few remaining apples have already been allocated to pay my salary and that of my fellow administrators and to buy shiny new toys.

    Teachers: But that's unreasonable, you're choosing to buy shiny new toys and pay administrator salaries rather than honor your contract with the teachers?

    Superintendent Jones: Okay, we'll keep the shiuny new toys, fire the teachers, and spend a ton of additional money on PR to try and spin the situation to make you look like the bad guys here.