by April Corbin Girnus, Nevada Current
Democratic legislators on Friday proposed a new $250 million fund designed to incentivize local school districts into providing “significant raises” for teachers and other staff.
Under the proposal, any school district that allocates a portion of their budget to raises could apply for matching funds from the state, up to a certain percentage. The districts would have to certify their proposed raises and commit to cover their share.
The Clark County Education Association (CCEA) in its own statement Friday said $250 million “equates to a 10% increase in salaries for all educators, licensed professionals and support staff in the first year of the upcoming biennium, as well as an additional adjustment to account for inflation in the second year.”
CCEA and Democrat legislators emphasized the proposal as a solution to helping with a teacher vacancy crisis. CCEA represents teachers and licensed professionals within Clark County School District and is the largest education union in the state.
“Nevada schools are facing record numbers of teacher vacancies,” said Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in a statement, “and it must be our top priority to ensure we have a qualified teacher in every classroom.”
CCEA’s statement said the state needs to hire 19,000 new educators over the next decade.
CCSD last year announced they would raise the starting salary for teachers from $43,000 to $50,115. They also raised the salaries of any teachers making less than that new starting salary.
But veteran teachers received no equivalent bump in salary, leading many to criticize the district for focusing too much on attracting new teachers at the expense of current ones whose retention is equally important. (Veteran teachers did receive a one-time $5,000 bonus.)
CCSD is one of the state’s top employers of people eligible for Medicaid, and education groups have been battling for additional investments for years.
The Nevada State Education Association, a statewide union, is pushing a “Time For 20” campaign that advocates for 20% increases for educators, at least $20 per hour for workers, and average class sizes of 20 students.
In a statement, NSEA called the proposal “a good down payment.”
“Due to the mechanics of the new funding formula, certain school districts will not have the resources for any educator raises,” said NSEA President Dawn Etcheverry. “This needs to be addressed because every Nevada educator deserves a raise.”
While their overall budget is largely set by state legislators, school districts are ultimately in charge of negotiating salaries with their respective unions.
“As education funding increases, we need to hold our school districts accountable to ensure that money is being appropriately spent to attract and retain qualified teachers in every corner of Nevada,” said Cannizzaro in her statement released with the proposal. “We look forward to working to implement this proposal as part of the legislative session’s budget process.”
Their $250 million proposal is in addition to an already proposed additional $2 billion for the state’s K-12 system, which Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo announced during his state of the speech last month and included in his executive budget.
In their press release, Democrats said that $2 billion was actually already planned as part of Nevada’s Pupil Centered Funding Formula, which Democrats spearheaded in the 2019 session.
During a briefing with press prior to the state of the state last month, Lombardo Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer said the administration believes their proposed executive budget is “adequate to cover teacher raises” but he declined to speculate on what that percentage equivalent might be.
On Friday, Kieckhefer through the governor’s office released a brief statement in response to the Democrats’ proposal: “Funding education is a shared priority between both parties and both branches of government, and we look forward to reviewing the proposal and understanding their funding mechanism.”
A 10% raise would be similar to what has been proposed for employees of the State of Nevada, which has also been struggling with high vacancy rates. Lombardo has proposed 8% raises for all state employees in the first fiscal year of the upcoming biennium and a 4% increase the following year.