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Strike Avoided But Where Is Money For Teacher Raises Coming From?

A teachers strike has been avoided, but where will the new money for teachers come from?

John Vellardita, head of the Clark County teachers union, talked with State of Nevada, about how the new deal came about late Wednesday. 

He said teachers will get a pay raise, a step increase, an increase in contribution to health insurance and teachers who earned a pay increase because of additional training will move up a pay bracket.

"The district has financial challenges. We're not going to argue with that," Vellardita said, "It is really about priorities and where do you move your priorities in terms of resources."

Though the Clark County School District had initially maintained it did not have the money to fund all the initiatives, Superintendent Jesus Jara said Wednesday that the district was "trending better in our finances," something he credited to interest earnings and managers not filling some positions at the district's main office.

Both Vellardita and Jara said there will be no class size increases and no teaching positions will be eliminated.

While it may seem like the dispute came up quickly, Vellardita said it is something that had been brewing for some time.

"This isn't something that happened in the last 30 days. This has been systemic for about 10 years in the Clark County School District since the recession," he said.

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He said teachers have taken cuts and freezes to salaries over the past 10 years, "this is what is normally called a tipping point."

The biggest sticking point during the negotiations was the bump in pay for teachers who had completed professional development.

Vellardita said those pay increases were something the district and the union had been agreed to three years ago. He also believes the incentives are a way to put better teachers in the classroom.

"It's really about teachers getting better at teaching," he said, "It's about investing in your practice."

The union head said teachers made a commitment of money and time to improve their teaching skills with the understanding they would be compensated for those efforts.

He admitted there are plenty of other problems that Southern Nevada schools need to deal with but it was important to teachers that the district keeps its word.

"It wasn't because it only affected X amount of people," he said, "It was really about a relationship."

And as far as the union's relationship with Superintendent Jara, Vellardita said the union supported his hiring and wants to move forward with him as the leader of the district. 

He also hailed Governor Steve Sisolak's leadership during the dispute. He said the governor had a "significant" role in getting everyone back to the bargaining table.

Vellardita said the union wants to partner with the district and others in the next legislative session to talk about the future of education funding.

"We want to elevate the discussion at the state level around what's a strategic solution to adequately fund our schools statewide, let alone the 5th largest school district in the country," he said. 

Guests

John Vellardita, executive director, Clark County Education Association

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