The Fresno Teachers Association announced Wednesday it has filed an unfair practices charge against Fresno Unified School District over a change in English language teaching in middle and high schools.
Under the new “English Language Development regimen,” English language arts teachers in grades 7 through 12 are now required to provide English learner students with 20 minutes of designated English Language Development instruction per class period. That’s about one-third of the class time.
The union says the split English language program is the only one of its kind in California and will be detrimental both to students who are learning English and students who are already fluent.
“English learners, both by law and necessity, need to have dedicated instruction time to help hone their English language skills,” FTA President Manuel Bonilla said in a news release. “The most successful model for meeting this English Language Development is by holding designated classroom instruction free from distraction.”
Bonilla said the district is “prepared to punish all students — both English learners and native English-speaking students — by forcing them to lose critical instruction time” while the teacher devotes time to developing the skills of English learners.
The change was instituted without consulting with the union and is a violation of the collective bargaining agreement because it will double the number of classes that English language arts teachers need to prepare for, the union said.
In response, the district provided the following statement:
“Fresno Unified is in receipt of FTA’s unfair practice charge. FTA continues to obfuscate the issues. From the beginning, Fresno Unified has been abundantly clear the 22/23 contract is closed and not subject to renegotiations. Moreover, Fresno Unified is committed to our English Language Learners and their families. We fully stand behind our ELD instructional model which prioritizes inclusion and ensures the best access and outcomes for our English Learner students, who make up almost 20% of our student body.”
Fresno teachers are now working without a contract after the last one expired on June 30.
The FTA complaint was filed with the California Public Employment Relations Board, which also is in the process of hearing a complaint filed by the district over the union’s submission of its “last, best, and final” contract offer in May after a downtown rally and during a School Board meeting.
At the rally, the assembled FTA members showed their support for authorizing the union to consider calling a strike vote in October if there is no contract signed by Sept. 29.
The district said subsequently that it is prepared to hire substitute teachers and pay them $500 a day if the teachers walk out.