KNPR

Clark County Teachers Speak On Salary Freezes; Education In Las Vegas

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Clark County teachers were told earlier this year they would face a salary freeze.

The Clark County School District made waves in June when it announced that teachers and administrators would not receive salary increases.

It was a move that the district said would save about $32 million of a $67 million budget shortfall.

Since then, teachers have protested outside of board meetings and made known their disappointment with the decision.

Last month, we spoke with district officials about their decision, as well as the head of the Clark County Education Association, the largest teacher's union in the state.

Jennifer Manning is a math teacher at Spring Valley High School. She said she learned about the pay freeze through a Facebook post from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. 

"It would have been nice to have some sort of warning instead of reading sometimes some of the harsh words the Review-Journal can post and say about teachers," she said.

The move infuriated Manning because she had just finished a master's degree program that would have made her eligible for a pay raise. The program took $8,000 of her own money to complete.   

Stephanie Swain is a teacher at Sandy Miller Elementary School. She believes the district has the money to pay teachers a better salary. 

Support comes from

"Even in the past, we've proven that the district has money to pay teachers accordingly and I'm hoping that will be the result this time as well," she said.

It is a sentiment long-time teacher Karl Byrd agrees with. What he doesn't understand is how the district can freeze pay at a moment when fixing education is under a microscope.

"How can you say you want to attract people to come here but in the middle of the attraction you put a salary freeze on?" he said, "That's very hard to reconcile."

Byrd said when he first arrived in Las Vegas to teach 19 years ago, the focus was on improving education to diversify the economy, which is the argument many have made about education funding now.

"How can we talk about all these economic woes we have here but then don't want to pay for the brightest and best to come here or retain people that show stability?" he asked.

For Manning, the pay problem is also about proper compensation for the time she spends preparing, especially for the new Common Core standards.

"I'm upset I'm not going to be compensated with my salary because I'm spending so much of my own money to improve my practice and it's not being acknowledged," she said.

Manning likes the new Common Core standards but doesn't think teachers have been given the adequate resources to fully implement them. 

The teachers also explained that they often use their own money to make sure their students have classroom supplies. Some students simply don't have the money to buy the basics.

There are schools that have partnered with businesses for extra resources, but not all schools benefit.

 "I wish it was equal across the board but it's not," Swain pointed out.

One teacher told KNPR's State of Nevada that she believes the inequality will get worse if the proposed breakup of CCSD continues.

"What's going to happen is it's going to create the district of the haves and the districts of have-nots," Wendy Gelbart, a special education teacher at Canyon Springs High School, said.

Gelbart said while there are boxes of books in the storeroom at her school that are unopened and no one knows who ordered them, she had to erase the answers from workbooks from last year so her students could use them this year.

For Manning, the district's marketing campaign to find new teachers is ironic. The campaign features teachers as heroes with a Superman-like cape. 

"There's calling us heroes with one hand and slapping us with the other," she said

Despite the challenges, Gelbart stays because of the kids, "because I feel like I'm making a difference." 

Guests

Jennifer Manning, Spring Valley High School; Karl Byrd, KO Knuteson Middle School; Stephanie Swain, Sandy Miller Elementary School; Wendy Gelbart, Canyon Springs High School

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