Sunday, January 31, 2010

Special Session Targets Teachers

Over the last month you have been hearing and reading in the news about the dire economic condition of our state. This has presented enemies of public education, specifically Governor Gibbons, an opportunity to advance their anti-union, anti-public education agenda.

The Governor has proposed an 8 point school reform plan, which he indicates will help balance the state budget shortfall. (Those challenging him in his primary election have also embraced the concept of revisiting NRS 288.) The centerpiece of the Governor’s School Reform Plan is to eliminate NRS 288, which affords public employees the right to collectively bargain.

If the Governor and his allies are successful in eliminating NRS 288, well… just look to Arizona, who like Nevada is a right to work state. However, Arizona doesn’t have collective bargaining rights so the legislature recently went after teachers and the Arizona Education Association:

* Legislation was enacted prohibiting school boards from using seniority when it came to reduction in force.
* Legislation was enacted permitting school districts to target specific employees for pay reductions.
* The Tucson Unified School District has laid off approximately 700 teachers and support staff.
* The Paradise Valley School District employees were forced to take a 2.62% salary cut.
* The Governor and legislature went after the Arizona Education Association because they were “way too vocal, and way too union oriented.”

If the Governor and his primary opponents have their way, all you have to do is substitute the word Nevada for Arizona.

Providing the Governor fodder, and an excuse for his attacks, is the continued decrease in sales, gaming and property taxes, which make up the bulk of the state’s revenue. According to the Nevada Economic Forum, which met on January 22, 2010, the revenue shortfall will be in the neighborhood of $800 million to $1 billion, which represents approximately 15% of the state’s biennium budget. Since education represents approximately 40% of the state’s budget, and CCSD receives approximately 75% of that 40%, the impact to CCSD could be in the area of $250 million over the biennium. This figure alone would exceed the total amount cut from CCSD’s budget over that past three years and would be truly catastrophic.

The Governor will give his State of the State address on February 8, 2010, at which time it is expected he will call for a special session of the legislature to take place around February 23, 2010. The Governor is the only one who sets the agenda; his proposed budget cuts and school reform plan will more than likely be on that agenda.

Last year CCEA was successful in working with CCSD to keep teachers from being laid off or RIF’d, preventing cuts to our salaries, and funding step increases for experience when the Legislature only funded enough money for education step increases. CCSD support staff employees were not as fortunate and experienced layoffs and RIF’s. If the Governor is successful in eliminating collective bargaining and implementing his school reform plan, then teachers and other employees will be subject to the whim of the legislature and school districts. They will balance the budget on the backs of teachers and at the expense of our children’s education.

As we face tremendous challenges in the upcoming year due to the projected budget shortfall, it’s important that we fight any efforts to eliminate collective bargaining, which was so instrumental in providing a legal framework in working with CCSD.

So where do we go from here? CCEA is finalizing an organizing plan that will focus on influencing and impacting legislation during the special session, addressing budget cuts and the Governor’s school reform plan. Our plan will include a variety of activities in which your participation will be vital. The plan will be ready to roll out immediately following Governor Gibbons’ speech on February 8. In the mean time, please save the following dates for activities: Feb. 9 & Feb. 13 - details to follow.

We urge you to sign up for our e-mail alerts in order to receive up-to-date information on organizing activities. Please ask your friends, neighbors and family to support teachers as we fight to preserve our right to bargain and to minimize budget cuts that will impact us and the students of Clark County.

Governor Gibbons’ 8 Point Plan

On January 6, 2010, “pro-education” Governor Gibbons proposed the following school reforms:

• Streamlining K-12 school funding and creating empowerment school districts.
• Eliminating local government and school district collective bargaining as provided for in Chapter 288 of the Nevada Revised Statutes.
• Adopting a statewide school voucher program.
• Eliminating the elected body known as State Board of Education.
• Eliminating the statutory requirement for class-size reduction.
• Eliminating any statutory and budgetary requirements for full-day kindergarten.
• Eliminating the hold harmless provision in school funding.
• Amending NS 386.650(1) to delete the provision which prohibits the use of student test scores from being used for the purposes of evaluating an individual teacher or paraprofessional.

Reprinted from the Clark County Education Association Website.

No comments: