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CCSD teachers have gotten a raise, but some still want right to strike

Teachers and members of the Clark County Education Association rally in support of a new contract for teachers Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Las Vegas. School district officials in Las Vegas are asking a judge consider a motion Wednesday to put an end to what they claim is a coordinated union campaign of teachers calling in sick amid their bitter contract battle. (AP Photo/John Locher)
John Locher
Teachers and members of the Clark County Education Association rally in support of a new contract for teachers Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, in Las Vegas. S

After months of negotiations and arbitration, Clark County School District teachers have gotten a pay raise.

According to the terms finalized by a judge in December, teachers in the country’s fifth largest school district will get a nearly 20% raise over the next two years, 10% this year and 8% next year.

The contract also includes an additional $5,000 yearly for special education teachers and teachers at Title I schools.

It’s almost everything the Clark County Education Association listed in their demands at the start of negotiations. However, one central sticking point, temporary raises, contingent on one-time funding provided by Senate Bill 231 passed during the 2023 legislative session.

“They thought the SB231 funds for additional raises could be used for permanent raises. They ultimately didn't get that, and that bump will sunset at the end of the contract year. Then, it will be up to the legislator to renew that. Other than that, they asked for the 18% matches in what they asked for originally, the extra pay for Title 1 and [special education] teachers also aligned with them. So, they did call it a victory," said April Corbin Girnus, a reporter for Nevada Current.

The new contract also sets a base salary of roughly $53,000 for new teachers. That has drawn the ire of some veteran teachers who have worked for years to reach a salary commiserate with new staff. That salary compression is nothing new, said Corbin Girnus.

“This is not the first time that veteran teachers have felt this. Every time there is a new salary schedule, they get the short end of the stick. So I don't think there's a lot of hope regarding the teachers I've talked to you about addressing this issue.”

For lawmakers, including Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, the long debate over teacher pay and the need for arbitration came as a surprise.

“I thought that we made it very clear in the legislature that teachers needed that raise,” she said. “We need to not only attract new teachers but keep teachers who have been in the classroom for years, those veteran teachers, and I thought that was clear. I thought that the very vocal majority was apparent to CCSD that that's what was wanted.”

At the same time, the debate over teacher pay raises as children in Nevada continue to struggle. A new report recently found that children growing up in poverty in Nevada have a more difficult time reaching the middle class by adulthood than kids in other states. That’s according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Race for Results Report released last week.

The report used data from across 12 areas to assess typical well-being milestones for children. Those measures include birth weight, reading and math scores, and family makeup. The data is broken down across race and ethnicity and then scored.

Overall, this year’s report found that children growing up in Nevada face more barriers to the middle class than the national average, regardless of race. However, Black and Hispanic children in Nevada often face some of the most significant well-being disparities in the country.

For Holly Wellborn, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance of Nevada, the report underlines the need for significant investment in programs like early childhood education.

“I think specifically for Nevada what we need is early childhood [programs],” Wellborn said. “We're seeing so much that we have not moved the needle on. It's worsening. Instead, we need to look at early childhood support as a system connecting health and nutrition, early childhood education and economic support during that very early part of life. Having more oversight is going to be crucial for moving Nevada forward.”

This new data follows on the heels of last year’s Kids Count report that found that parents in Nevada pay some of the country's highest rates for child care. The Biden administration requested $16 billion from Congress for childcare funding to offset those costs. That would include $138 million for Nevada, helping an estimated 102,300 children.

The funding could help seed several programs aimed at helping children in the state, according to Wellborn.

“The fact that we have the President of the United States calling for large permanent investments in child care just shows how dire the situation is,” she said. “That commitment from our federal government to do something is crucial because that federal investment will help solve this problem.”

The report also recommends federal lawmakers expand the tax credit for families and suggests state lawmakers consider programs that create publicly funded savings accounts that families can use for their children’s future.

Guests: April Corbin Girnus, reporter and editor, Nevada Current; Shannon Bilbray Axelrod, assemblywoman and chair, Assembly Education Committee; Annette Dawson Owens, school readiness policy director, Child Advocacy Alliance of Nevada

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Paul serves as KNPR's producer and reporter in Northern Nevada. Based in Reno, Paul specializes in covering state government and the legislature.