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Vegas school district goes to court to stop teacher strike

August 27, 2019

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Clark County School District has gone to court to stop a Las Vegas-area teacher’s union from carrying out a threatened Sept. 10 strike. Teachers are seeking more pay for continuing education.

The school district on Monday asked a judge to certify that it’s against state law for members of the Clark County Education Association walk off the job. Teacher strikes are illegal under Nevada law and if a judge issues an order against any strike, the union can be fined up to $50,000 a day and striking employees can be punished or fired.

The school district, the fifth largest in the country, said in a statement Tuesday that the union agreed to mediation talks but the strike threat remains. It said the children should not be treated as pawns in the dispute.

“Enough with the scare tactics and political tug of war that only leaves the most vulnerable in the worst situation,” the district said.

John Vellardita, executive director of the union, said, “They should settle the contract. Pay these teachers what they’re owed. It’s that simple.”

The dispute follows similar teacher walkouts over low pay across the country in recent years and comes as teachers in Chicago are inching toward a possible strike in late September.

A Nevada judge set a Sept. 30 hearing on the emergency request from Clark County School District. It wasn’t immediately clear if the district, which has 320,000 students, would seek to have the hearing date moved up.

The union said it has tried to settle the dispute through negotiations and believes the law making strikes illegal is unconstitutional. It said it would challenge it to the state Supreme Court, if needed.

Vellardita said that while the union agreed to participate in talks with federal labor mediators, the Sept. 10 strike deadline remains. He said the union and district are scheduled to return to the bargaining table late Wednesday afternoon.

The district has offered a 3% raise, something Gov. Steve Sisolak promised to all state employees this year, along with periodic pay increases and more money to cover health insurance. The central dispute between the district and the union is over what’s known as column advancement, where teachers can earn higher pay with additional training.

The school district estimates only a fraction of the 18,000 teachers benefit from the system.

Sisolak said last Friday that he was “really angry” with the situation and scolded the school district for failing to calculate how much money it needed to make column advancement payments, in addition to funding the promised pay and insurance increases.

“The fact that they did not ensure this was accounted in their budget is astounding,” Sisolak said. “They created this mess and now they need to fix it.”

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