A wide chasm still remains between what the Fresno Teachers Association want in their new contract and what Fresno Unified is willing to provide, even as the clock on the current contract is winding down.
According to a document supplied to GV Wire by a district official, the teachers union is asking for a 13.26% pay boost for the current school year, including a 6% increase the district already agreed to pay, plus a one-time bonus of $10,000. The teachers want an 8.22% pay increase plus a $7,500 bonus next year, a 5.54% increase and a $5,000 bonus in 2024-25, and a cost-of-living increase equal to the state’s local control funding formula COLA increase, plus a $5,000 bonus, in 2025-26.
Details of the District’s Offer to Teachers
The district’s offer, according to the document: a 6% pay raise this year with a $5,000 bonus, 7.5% next year with no bonus, 1.5% and no bonus in 2024-25, and a 3% pay boost and no bonus in 2025-26. But that pay offer is contingent on further reducing the district’s contributions to the paid employee health fund by at least 12.5%.
The current school year was added to the three-year 2019-2022 contract that was extended by a year because of the COVID pandemic.
FTA President Manuel Bonilla did not respond to an email and text message Monday from GV Wire seeking comment.
District spokeswoman Nikki Henry confirmed that the two sides are “far apart on key issues” but are negotiating on “multiple articles and working conditions.”
Pay, Benefits, Working Conditions
According to the district document, the teachers union also is seeking time-and-a-half pay for all work beyond eight hours per day and 100% district-paid dental (including orthodontic), vision, and hearing aids, and 12 weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave.
The union also wants to reduce mandatory meeting hours to 20 per year and for evaluations of teachers only to be used for “growth and development.” By contrast, the district is seeking to increase required meetings to 90 minutes per week and “is interested in adding language that includes evidence of student achievement,” according to the district document.
Henry said that efforts to engage in “interest-based bargaining,” whereby the two sides attempt to reach an agreement on mutual interests, have not been successful and they are now moving to traditional bargaining sessions.
“Should the parties be unable to reach agreement before the expiration of the contract the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement remain in place until the parties resolve negotiations,” she said. “No programs or academics would be impacted if the parties’ successor contract negotiations continue past July 1, 2023.”
Board Already Agreed to Washers, Dryers
At least one item on the union’s long list of interests has already been accomplished, at least in part. FTA has proposed providing free washer and dryer access at schools, and the School Board voted in March to install laundry equipment at all middle schools. The lack of access to laundry facilities and clean clothes can impact students’ attendance.
The union’s list of interests includes creating a food pantry in each region, including free deodorant and feminine hygiene products, free universal after-school programs, free wellness programs for students and families that could include yoga, meditation, and low-impact exercise, 24-hour mental health services, mandatory and free tutoring for all middle and high school students with Cs, Ds, and Fs.
The union also is seeking to implement chess and other educationally based enrichment programs at all school sites, partnering with local colleges and universities to provide free master’s in literacy and master’s in dual enrollment teaching for Fresno Unified teachers, and providing $1 million annually for students to do college tours, particularly for underserved students to visit Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
FTA Wants Members at Wednesday’s Rally
The FTA is asking teachers to come to N and Tulare streets in downtown Fresno on Wednesday afternoon while the School Board is meeting. As an incentive, the union is offering $5 coupons for food that will be sold from food trucks organized by Fresno Street Eats.
The flyer for the union’s event makes no mention of the pay increases and health benefit increases proposed, but instead talks about the union’s push to reduce class sizes and special education caseloads, making classrooms and campuses safer, and focusing on student literacy, among other issues. The teachers are being asked to gather at 5:30 p.m.
The event apparently is the culmination of several months of union-organized public comments by school staffers, parents, and students at the beginning of School Board meetings before the board goes into closed session.
On Tuesday morning the FTA sent out a news release clarifying that the location of its rally will be on N Street between Mariposa and Tulare streets starting at 5:30 p.m. Over 1,000 educators, parents, and community members are expected to gather in support of the union’s “Plan for Reimagined Learning,” which includes calls to reduce class sizes and improve student literacy.
“This rally represents a critical moment for the future of education in Fresno Unified,” Bonilla, the union’s president, said in the news release. “We believe that every student deserves a high-quality education, and every educator deserves a supportive teaching environment. Our extensive plan, developed with input from dedicated professionals, addresses the urgent need for improved learning environments and sets forth a comprehensive strategy to achieve this goal.”