Teaching Profession

In Las Vegas, the Teachers’ Union and the District Reach a Deal to Avoid a Strike

By Madeline Will — August 29, 2019 3 min read
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There won’t be a teacher strike in the nation’s fifth-largest school district this fall.

The Clark County school district, which encompasses Las Vegas, has reached a tentative agreement with the Clark County Education Association to avert a planned strike on Sept. 10. Teachers across the board will receive a 3 percent salary increase, and the district will increase its health care contribution for employees by 4 percent. The district also agreed to give a salary advancement to educators who have completed a certain amount of training to move to a higher column in the salary schedule, as well as step, or seniority, increases of 2 percent for this year and next year.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Superintendent Jesus Jara called the agreement “a fair deal for our educators who have the largest impact on student achievement.”

He had originally said the district couldn’t afford to give raises for professional development, which are projected to cost between $11 million to $15 million this year, but said on Wednesday the district is “trending positively in our revenue.” That’s partly through hiring freezes and interest earnings, he said.

The agreement still has to be approved by the district’s board of trustees, but the union said that will happen.

“This struggle has concluded,” CCEA said in a statement. “Moving forward, it is about teaching 320,000 students and preparing for the next legislative session to finally fix the funding issue for our schools.”

Some Clark County students had turned to the video-sharing social platform, TikTok, to call for a “student strike” on Sept. 5 to support their students. Gillian Sullivan, 16, who made the initial call for students to walk out of class has posted a new TikTok video calling off the strike.

“Through social media and people actively speaking out, we got what we wanted,” she said.

Another Strike Still Looming

Meanwhile, in Chicago, teachers are preparing for a possible strike as early as Sept. 25. This week, the Chicago Teachers Union formally rejected an independent fact-finder’s report, which started a 30-day clock to a strike.

The nation’s second-largest school district and the teachers’ union are far apart on several issues, including the length of the contract itself. The district wants a five-year contract, while the union wants it to last three years. Chicago Public Schools is offering a 3 percent raise for the first three years, and 3.5 percent in the last two years. The union wants 5 percent raises each year.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said this is the “most robust salary and benefit package in CTU history,” and “there is no reason over 30 days that we can’t get this inked and done,” according to news site WTTW.

But the union says the district’s offer doesn’t go far enough. Another sticking point: The district has not put any promises of smaller class sizes or hiring more counselors, nurses, and librarians in the contract, despite the union’s demands. The union has also made requests for an increase in affordable housing, which is unusual in traditional contract negotiations.

“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and this mayor promised to stop starving our schools,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “There is no place we’d rather be than in our classrooms educating our schoolchildren. But if it takes a strike to force the 5th floor to keep the mayor’s campaign promises, we will see her on the picket line.”

Image: Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, center, prods Clark County school district Superintendent Jesus Jara, left, and John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, to shake hands after announcing a teacher strike had been adverted during a press conference at district headquarters in Las Vegas on Aug. 28. —K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.