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October 21, 2014

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Unruly teachers union members cause a scene but can’t deter layoff vote

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Steve Marcus

Teacher Lisa Immel Muntean speaks to board members before leaving a Clark County School Board meeting at the Edward Greer Education Center on East Flamingo Road on Wednesday, May 16, 2012. The board approved a final budget that will lay off 1,015 positions to balance the budget.

Teachers Protest Layoffs

Debra Cooley, a kindergarten teacher at Steele Elementary School, holds up a sign before 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. Launch slideshow »

The Clark County School District kept its promise.

Since November, the district warned teachers that their jobs were in jeopardy if their union refused to make concessions. The Clark County Education Association stood its ground, fighting back vehemently for pay raises they argued were contractually theirs.

So after an arbitrator sided with the union earlier this month, the district responded Wednesday with an official announcement that it will shed 840 teachers and 175 literacy specialists next month in what is being called the largest reduction in force in the district's history.

And as a result of the layoffs, average class sizes — already criticized for being one of the largest in the nation — will rise by another two or three students.

"This is a very sad day," School Board member Carolyn Edwards said. "Increasing class sizes by two is not what we wanted to do."

On Wednesday night, the School Board unanimously adopted a fiscal 2013 budget that bridges a $64 million shortfall with 1,015 teacher layoffs.

At a tense meeting interrupted several times by raucous teachers union members and parents, district officials and School Board members outlined a grim financial outlook.

Depressed property values due to the sustained economic downturn have led to decreased tax revenues to fund public education, officials said. The impending layoffs are the consequence of continued budget cuts and a complete lack of compromise between the cash-strapped district and its teachers union — and it all comes at a cost to students.

As a result of the layoffs, average class sizes are expected in the mid-30s in the upper elementary, middle and high school classes. With more students, existing teachers will be saddled with more work. With fewer teachers, students will have to fight harder to receive individualized attention in class.

"It's a harsh yet undeniable reality," Clark County Schools Superintendent Dwight Jones said. "When 90 percent of the budget is salary and benefits, it's difficult to find cuts."

The ramifications of that reality rendered itself in the teachers union rhetoric and reactions Wednesday.

Before the meeting began, about 200 teachers union members picketed outside the Edward Greer Education Center. Despite the mercury hitting triple digits, teachers — wearing CCEA shirts with targets on their backs — hoisted signs that read "Save our teachers" and chanted mantras such as "This is not reform."

Pacing outside was John Vellardita, the local union's executive director, who said he was disturbed by the School District's rhetoric. Instead of talking about trying to secure more state funding for Clark County schools, the seven-member School Board has turned on its teachers to close its deficit, Vellardita lamented.

"We have a real problem with the district framing the discussion around the assumption that we can get by with a lack of funding," he said. "The so-called Dems on the board need to wake up and smell the coffee."

At the meeting, a sea of red-shirted union members cheered on their own while heckling those who crossed them with outbursts.

After union President Ruben Murillo made his public comments — arguing that the district has the resources to avert teacher layoffs — union members began to chant: "Save our teachers! Save our schools!"

School Board members — who had repeatedly issued warnings to rowdy teachers — suddenly recessed the meeting, and one by one walked out in protest. They returned about five minutes later.

"What we don't appreciate is you disrupting our meeting," a visibly angry School Board President Linda Young said, chastising the teachers by comparing them to unruly schoolchildren. "We want you to model the kind of behavior you would want for your kids."

School Board Passes Budget with Layoffs

Clark County School District Superintendent Dwight Jones listens to a presentation on the budget 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. Launch slideshow »

The School District did not want to lay off teachers, Young said, adamantly. They tried to save jobs, but there's just not enough money to pay raises and keep positions, she said.

Others echoed her sentiments, notably members of the administrators union, which settled with the district on concessions. The administrators, support staff and police unions all made concessions, said Stephen Augspurger, the executive director of the Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees.

"This was your choice," Augspurger told the teachers union. "This consequence was known beforehand … It was predictable and inevitable."

In response, a number of teachers union members turned their backs and booed Augspurger. Some coughed repeatedly, one muttering an expletive under his breath.

During a budget presentation later in the meeting, Teresa Sandoval-Salazer — a parent who organized a protest at Vegas Verdes Elementary School last week over budget cuts — yelled out, "I'm very ashamed of you."

Union members began to cheer. Young tried to bring the meeting back to order. Teachers began to leave, chanting "We'll remember in November." (The seats of School Board members John Cole, Chris Garvey, Deanna Wright and Linda Young are up for re-election.)

Teachers were just expressing their frustrations, Murillo said after the meeting, explaining his members' reactions. They were disappointed in the School District's decision to lay off teachers, he said.

"We're tired of being the brunt of a negative campaign against teachers," he said. "The School District has no idea what teachers are going through with their demands and threats of layoffs. Our teachers are fed up."

A number of School Board members retorted they were fed up and disappointed with the union's tactics.

"We didn't want one person to get a pink slip … or to be without insurance or a paycheck because we know how devastating it is," Wright said. "But we got shut down (by the union)."

School Board member John Cole agreed. "This shouldn't be a surprise to anybody," he said. "At the end of the day, the district needs to balance its budget."

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  1. Only Garvey, Wright, Young and Cole are up for reelection. Cole withdrew and Young didn't have anyone running against her. Let's see what the Primaries have to say.

  2. How many administration positions are being layed off? We have two elementry schools in my neighborhood that are side by side, why? So they can have two principals and duplicate admin staff?

    What about the Dept of Curriculum and Professional development whose average income is $113k, have they been trimmed first?

    Has the district tried to renegotiate their debt service?

    What has the district done to cut spending before coming up with this plan?

  3. Also the school district budget is not 90% payroll, that is a flatout falsehood. Shame on you Mr. Jones.

  4. The scene at the board meeting resembles that of a classroom with a teacher who has poor behavior plan in place or worse, no behavior plan whatsoever.

    In a classroom, the teacher would be rated poorly. The teacher would be blamed for having 'poor classroom management skills.' The administrative directives would be:

    1. Design a classroom behavior management plan and have parents discuss them with their children and signify their agreement of the plan
    2. Ensure students clearly understood the expectations, the consequences of infractions, and the rewards for good behavior
    3. Consistency in implementation
    4. Display rules in the classroom and consistently review

    Part of the evaluation would include how effectively the plan is designed and implemented.

    Maybe Mr. Jones needs to refocus his efforts, review his 'classroom management plan,' reconsider the 'consequences for misbehavior,' and the 'rewards for good behavior.' Perhaps, Mr. Jones and the board may want to look at what they are doing that is 'not working.'

    Or, like a 'bad teacher' would do, it's always easier to 'blame children for being bad' thus must be punished. Bad, bad, bad children.

  5. How the Nevada Development Authority plays this card will be very informative. The layoff should create several hundred short sales.

  6. How refreshing to see the School Board stick up for the taxpayer and fiscal reality. Thank you.

  7. There are 38,000 employees; 18,000 are teachers.

    Fire all 18,000 teachers. Have the 20,000 babysit. After all, that IS ALL what teachers do, right? Save a lot of taxpayer money.

    No more unions. No more teachers. Problem solved.

  8. What doesn't make sense is why the union isn't suing the district for their failure to unload the bloated overhead staff before laying off teachers. I despise the union but fair is fair when all said and done.

    I don't see a need to have more overhead than direct costs. This is part of the problem with the system; personal that produces nothing or does little keep their jobs and the direct staff gets a layoff. Something's wrong in never-never land.

  9. The REAL problem begins with Nevada's antiquated tax laws, many of which, were written into the Nevada Constitution by MINING interests well over 100 years ago. For decades, LAWMAKERS have "kicked the political can down the road," and avoided any meaningful, affective tax structure reform. MINING pays a pittance in taxes for the nonrenewable wealth it extracts from Nevada! Also along with MINING, are the casino/gaming/resort, and big box store industries, who have enjoyed a very favorable tax environment which filled their coffers to the point where they have expanded, not only in Nevada, but to other states, and overseas to foreign countries. Has that been happening for the little people here in Nevada? Not hardly. Their wealth has been make off the backs of the many everyday citizens of Nevada.

    It is time to require our LAWMAKERS to address the needs of the People of Nevada, the population of which has grown beyond what Nevada's pioneering founders ever dreamed of.

    All the posturing and show downs between both sides do nothing but make a scene or some noise. The "grown ups" need to get the message out to the VOTERS of Nevada to elect and hold LAWMAKERS and Government responsible and accountable towards an effective and fair tax structure that can take care of the needs of our state and its People.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  10. Comment removed by moderator. Inappropriate

  11. You know what gets me about this ongoing attack on teachers and their union?

    Conspicuously absent is our know-it-all Governor.

    Why is he not involved?

    I can answer that.

    Because he has decided to quietly sit on the sidelines and hope they all rip each other apart in disagreement.

    Because he wants the union gone.

    That way he can cut the education even more than it has been cut now.

    He will cut wages.

    He will cut more teachers.

    He will increase their hours too, encourage them to do more with less.

    He will cut supplies, making the teachers supply everything. Even with their meager wages now.

    He will get rid of most of their health benefits.

    And if he can find a way to do it, he will weasel out of paying retirement.

    Not sure if anyone knows this, but this ony pertains to teachers. Their social security, if they are even qualified, when they are eligible, goes to the state. They don't get it. Through some stupid law.

    THIS is what happens in my beloved State of Nevada when you put a whole string of predatory Tea/Republican Party Governors in charge, one right after the other. Governor Gibbons cut it beyond belief. Now, Governor Sandoval has continued with the scissors.

    When are the voters going to wake up and realize this is what they do? They could care less about public jobs. They want to cut, cut, cut, then give, give, give tax breaks/subsidies to the casino/mining/any other filthy rich they can lure to Nevada.

    When is it going to be the time for the people when we stop this constant, sustained attack on teachers, firefighters and police?

    Because if you don't, there won't be nothing left. A home invasion happens to you? Don't call the police. Call a casino.

    It keeps up like this, it's going to get impossible, people.

    Time to not only get angry, but back up the anger at the voting booths.

  12. The Pentagon got $29 billion more then it asked for - there is no balancing the budget when it comes time for paranoia. Your local GOP Rep votes billions for the Pentagon while education gets cut back.

    Brian Sandoval is making certain the wealthy can afford larger play toys while the lesser privileged sink. The Barrick Gold Corporation mines Nevada to pay the taxes due in Canada and Canadians live a great life. No cutbacks in education there. The only cutbacks come for Nevadans who are mined internationally and then thrown out in the street to rot.

    The objectives of 9/11 - to take America back into the stone age - are still being answered today.

  13. Thanks, RefNV. You just confirmed this isn't about teachers and our community, it's all about politics.

  14. And they wonder why some kids are discipline problems. Follow the "leader."

  15. Arizona still manages to get many more graduates who can read and write for $1,000 per pupil per year LESS than CCSD. All of the rest of the world (except tiny Switzerland) pays LESS for K-12 than the U.S. does--and many of those countries are producing literate graduates with science, math, writing proficiency.

  16. 38,000 employees for 300,000 students? What an EXCESSIVE in employees. That's at least one employee per 10 kids. RIDICULOUS. Time to downsize CCSD.

  17. @ REFNV "Las Vegans are fed-up with below average student test scores and graduation rates and the teachers squawking about higher pay"

    The only correct part of this statement is "Las Vegans are fed-up with teachers squawking about higher pay." And that's because they expect something for nothing.

    If the other part were true, Las Vegans (parents) would be taking a more active role in their child's education. You know, limiting computer time, ensuring homework is done, checking grades. The only time Las Vegans get involved is when they get the summer school notice and they have to pay.

    Please!

  18. Chunky says:

    There's no win here for either side but if the school district doesn't have the money, they don't have the money. Chunky applauds the School Board for balancing the budget as unpopular as those decisions may be.

    Question: Are ALL of our students verified in some was as US citizens or at least legal visitors or residents of the US? This isn't an "illegals" issue unless they are consuming resources / funding intended for legal citizens / visitors. Does anyone know the straight forward non-volatile answer to this?

    Either way, we have to balance the budget!

    That's what Chunky thinks!

  19. My husband is at the top of the pay scale having been a teacher for 25 years with a Masters and part of a PhD, and he makes the number quoted so how is it possible that this is an AVERAGE? Something wrong with the accounting here.

  20. Mr. Jones...

    You and your school board, in concert with THE MEDIA,
    are waging an ANTI-TEACHER CAMPAIGN, filled with OUTRIGHT LIES & FALSEHOODS.

    These people ought to be ASHAMED of themselves, but I am quite sure they are NOT.

    There will BE NO LAYOFFS...
    With retirees, voluntary resignations and folks just disappearing over the summer months, there will BE. NO. LAYOFFS.

    Why does the Sun, in concert with these disingenuous, lying UNION BUSTERS, play this game???

  21. Brianlv: If there are two schools in your neighborhood it's because there are two school's worth of kids there -- it's not some conspiracy to employ a few extra administrators. Sheesh.

  22. Las Vegas BREEDS a culture that does not value education, period. Not when Uncle Johnny can get you a job working the delivery dept at Bellagio for 40K.

    You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

  23. In all the articles I've read and discussions I've heard, I've not come across any constructive ideas from the teachers and their union. Maybe I missed them but I haven't read where they offered alternatives for funding shortfalls.

    Where will the funds to avoid layoffs come from? If they have a plan, lets hear it and vet it?

    I more than sympathize with anyone losing their source of income, their insurance and suffering a future jeopardized by job loss (been there, done that), especially families with children. Those losing their jobs need to look to those who won't and their union to examine why they were sacrificed.

    Budget shortfalls are a more than unfortunate fact of life all over the country. Counties and states can't coin and print money to cover them. Anger at those politicians who spent every dime of revenue without sufficient set asides for this inevitable outcome is deserved.

    Maybe if the teachers union had done their job along with the politicians who pander to voters rainy day funds could have been created, budget shortfalls anticipated, planned for and possibly prevented to some degree.

    I feel for teachers plight and there is enough blame to go around. Now how about all that collective education coming together to find a solution rather than threaten those they elected to deal with the contracts that seemed so wonderful when there was no end in sight.

  24. For children to become educated and graduate then must show up on time and prepared for class. They must study and not disrupt that class.

    None of that takes money. It takes responsibility on the part of the Parents and the Children.

    Many would rather blame the schools then live up to the responsibility they took on when they had their children.

    If Parents and Students would do their part then we would have the best schools in the country and it would cost one cent more.

  25. Why do we always threaten to lay off teachers when the CCSD administration is almost 53% of employees?

  26. Most of the posters here seem to have missed the part about the other unions in the school district making concessions. Yes, maybe the administration is bloated, but they made concessions. Teachers need to do the same or suffer the consequences. Simple.

  27. Joe you answered my question. I did not know what percentage of payroll belonged to admin and what percentage to teachers. Good post.

    Cheers.

  28. Joe, what's the source of your 68 percent figure?

  29. This type of mob-rule democracy only exists in the public sector. This is due to the fact that the public sector can occupy both sides of the negociation table. The system works as long as other peoples money, the taxpayers, is available . . . but when the money is gone this entitled group thinks all they need to do is to force the issue with violence, and that they will get thier way . . . it is the Union Way.

  30. Has any one of you teachers heard of the word STRIKE?? You should, everyone of you, get together and WALK OUT, that's the only true way to attract attention and make the CCSD find a better way to settle this mess, WALK OUT NOW----------------

  31. azstripper1,

    Teachers can not strike in the State of Nevada.

  32. Joe I agree with Scott. I would like to know your source. I have read that since Jones has been hired that the admin positions have increased though I do not know this as fact. I believe in the teachers until I know different although I am against public sector unions.

  33. Thirty kids in the class....when I graduated a large SoCal HS in the early 70's, we had class sizes of between 25 and 35 students for each of the 6 daily classes we had, and it appears that we (as a generation) are doing fairly well. Teachers Union wants more money, school district has wasted so much money there is a budget shortfall.

    I personally think that the only way to subsidize is to pay per student to make up the shortfall. And 175 literacy specialist....would those be necessary because of English NOT BEING the primary language? Is not my responsibility because you came here without being able to communicate, but are adding a burden to the school district.

    To look at the flip-side of this - I know (through colleagues working in Mexico with school age children) that public education in Mexico does not provide linguistic support for non-spanish speaking students...they are EXPECTED to be able to communicate at a rudimentary level. Seems like turnabout would at least be fair play.

  34. texexnv: Are you serious? A good teacher is worth their weight in gold. But then, you can't spell so maybe you are right.

  35. Tx_2_vegas: No that is not what unions are all about. They are now in business of union enrichment. Period. At least you had a choice to join the union or not. As a long ago member of the UAW, the only thing the union did was help people that did not want to work for a living get by each day while the rest of us picked up the slack.

  36. @ Xltman: school is not the same as your early 70s days. The mentality and culture have changed over the decades. During the 60s-70s era, if students acted out or were doing poorly in school, the students expected to feel the wrath from their parents. Nowadays, if a student does the same, it's the teacher that can expect to feel the wrath from the parents. You couldn't pay me enough to put up with the BS from the students/parents and lack of support from administration. Come on Vegas, don't let me down. I expect to hear lots of trash from trash.

  37. The union is the burden, so put union salarys at 75% of non union teachers that way its fair.

  38. Read between the lines: With Obamacare we cannot afford K-12 unless there are serious cuts. Another 150,000 on Medicaid. So if we cut K-12 to Arizona-level funding and use that $100,000,000 on Medicaid, we might balance the budget.

  39. Roberta that is exactly what our problems our today. We seem to think that the people sucking off of the system are more deserving than our little ones. California is a perfect example of this entitlement gone wrong. If you have ever read any of the essays by Victor Davis Hanson you can understand more. If you haven't, he writes on PjMedea.com. He and many other intelligent writers are there for your review.

  40. What is never discussed is the fact that teachers pay has been frozen the past two years. The district has made its decision and everyone has to live with it but there are two question that need answers:

    1. If the district, the union, and the arbitrator all agreed the raises would cost around $26 million, how does this equate to a $59 million shortfall?

    2. What is Dr. Jones and the school board doing to make sure this doesn't happen again?

  41. Governor Sandoval is doing an excellent job of carrying the GOP Mantra on with his Cut, Cut and more Cuts so the middle class winds up with nothing.

    A tax increase is what is needed, not more cuts to the teachers union.

    Please help in getting these GOP Bums out of office.

  42. Bradley, old chap...

    I think you need some rest.

  43. Write "We Love Teachers" on your car windows & read this article: "How to Destroy Education While Making a Trillion Dollars" (Robert Freeman, Common Dreams) http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/04...

  44. Spare us the fake outrage. Teachers knew going into arbitration that there were two options. Pay raise freezes or lay-offs. This was your choice, teachers. YOU WON! Pat yourselves on the back and enjoy your victory.

  45. This is all wrong. The message has been lost in all the hullabaloo.

    The real message is the mismanagement of education: Delivery, fiscal responsibility, and failed policies. The failure began when education stakeholders started throwing blame at each other.

    The biggest blame is LEADERSHIP. Mr. Jones looks entirely LOST. The Chairman of the Board throws up her hands in hopelessness. The board members walk out in disgust. NOBODY STOOD UP TO TAKE THE LEAD - to take command of the situation. NOBODY!

    Leadership requires adaptive capabilities. None showed any.

    AND THESE PEOPLE ARE IN CHARGE OF THE EDUCATION OF OUR CHILDREN?

  46. "This is a very sad day," School Board member Carolyn Edwards said. "Increasing class sizes by two is not what we wanted to do."

    No, it that decision was the teachers. They had all the power. We told them of the shortfall and gave them a choice. Everyone take a hit or we students will suffer with larger class sizes. As unfair as it was, they were asked to choose between themselves and the students. They chose themselves.

  47. The dollars are NOT in the classrooms. The dollars are in the employees, mostly teachers, pockets. We skip the text books to give "teachers" raises. We skip the supplies, to hire "extra" teachers. We skip the stewardship during negotiations to keep giving to the teachers. We keep ignoring the students.

  48. crimcops sys "No, it that decision was the teachers. They had all the power. We told them of the shortfall and gave them a choice."

    Except that there were more options than those two. The arbitrator foudn that the CCSD lied when they said they didn't have the money.

    The CCSD had the option to pay the teachers as per the contract without laying anyone off. They chose not to. The blame lies 100% with the CCSD, not the teachers.

  49. Roselenda says "The dollars are NOT in the classrooms. The dollars are in the employees, mostly teachers, pockets."

    "mostly teachers" huh? Perhaps you need to look at the salaries of all CCSD employees (a matter of public record) and see that well over 50% (close to 2/3 actually) of the salary budget goes to administrators, not teachers.

  50. MicheleS says: "Spare us the fake outrage. Teachers knew going into arbitration that there were two options. Pay raise freezes or lay-offs."

    There were only two options according to WHO?

    CCSD went into arbitration saying that there were only two options, and the arbitrator found that they LIED and that the CCSD had enough money to keep the teachers and honor the contract. CCSD, however, refused to take that third option. Control of whether or not layoffs happened was in CCSD's hands.

  51. And let's not overlook (from page 7 of the Arbitration Opinion and Award document) that the cost of the teacher's victory over the CCSD was $29,000,000 minus the 1.125% PERS contribution absorbed by the teachers.

    So, 29 million dollars minus 1.125% PERS contribution. (which I have seen estimated at anywhere from 1.5 to 7 million)

    But the layoffs that the CCSD says were necessitated by the arbitration loss will save the CCSD (according to a direct quote from Jones) 60.1 million dollars.

    So tell me again how a $60,100,000 dollar layoff is necessitated by a cost of somewhere between $22,000,000 and $27,500,000?

    Seems like one of these things has to be true. Even if the CCSD had prevailed in arbitration:

    1. The CCSD would have had to lay off 600-700 teachers anyhow to cover the 32-38 million shorfall.

    2. The CCSD had a way to cover the 32-38 million shortfall, which means that 600-700 of the teacher layoffs aren't actually needed.

  52. @Wendor..."Except that there were more options than those two.." Maybe, but when only those two options were put in from of the teachers, they chose themselves. That attitude will not be forgotten.

  53. crimcops says "...but when only those two options were put in from of the teachers, they chose themselves."

    Actually, No.

    They chose the third option which was to point out that CCSD did indeed have the money to honor the contract without layoffs.

    Sort of like if I give you the choice to be stabbed to death or burned to death. I bet you choose something other then those two options. This was a matching situation. CCSD presented two bad options without regard for the other perfectly viable options. Then they whined about it when the arbitrator called them on it and pointed out that they had the money and didn't need to go with either chose #1 or #2. At which point CCSD chose to implement one of those bad options despite the proof that they had other options.

  54. @Wendor..."They chose the third option which was to point out that CCSD did indeed have the money to honor the contract without layoffs."

    I'm sorry. I forgot that teachers live in this fantasy world where they feel they can actually tell their bosses how to spend their money. I would love to see the dealers at the Wynn tell Steve, "While we appreciate your salary package, I have chosen a different option where you sell your house in order to pay me what I want. After all your kids are grown so you don't need such a big place anymore.

    While your at it, I'll also choose to take half your salary 25% stake in the company. I mean, the money is there. Your just not spending it one me and I don't choose that option.

    Now, let's drift back to Jun 7, 2011 in this very paper.

    "The Clark County teachers union said Monday it won't agree to salary and benefit concessions even if it means teachers are laid off..." That sounds pretty cut and dry to me, but if one was still confused the words of Ruben Murillo, president of the Clark County Education Association are there to set the record straight.

    "Our members would rather us protect salaries and benefits, even if it might mean layoffs," said.

    Now even a CCSD grad can understand that.

  55. Thanks crimcops.

    I see from your last post that you now acknowledge that CCSD has the money, but you say that the teachers can't tell CCSD how to spend it. You're right....CCSD can CHOOSE to spend it wherever thay want.

    And since the CCSD made the CHOICE to not spend the money on the teachers then CCSD is CHOOSING to do layoffs instead.

    I must have misunderstood previously. I thought that you were saying that the teachers were at fault for the layoffs. Glad to see you acknowledge that the layoffs are what CCSD chose to do because CCSD can CHOOSE where to spend or not spend the money.