Fresno Teacher Pay Climbs Faster than Inflation and COLAs, District Says. That’s Baloney, Union Responds. - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Fresno Teacher Pay Climbs Faster than Inflation and COLAs, District Says. That’s Baloney, Union Responds.

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Fresno Unified says teacher pay has exceed inflation and cost-of-living increases. The teachers union counters that the district is using "fuzzy math." (GV Wire Composite/David Rodriguez)
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Fresno teacher salaries have climbed faster than the rate of inflation and state-funded cost-of-living increases over the past 13 years, the district said Thursday in a news release.

The district “is proud of the offer we have made to the Fresno Teachers Association (FTA), which estimates taking the average teacher salary into the six figures,” the district says in the news release. “Any claims that Fresno Unified salary increases are not keeping up with the rate of inflation or the state-funded LCFF cost of living adjustment (COLA) are untrue.”

However, the president of the Fresno Teachers Association, Manuel Bonilla, said that the district is selectively fudging the numbers as it wages a public relations battle against the union.

(Fresno Unified)

Over the past 13 years, Fresno Unified staff pay has increased 32.7%, not including step, column, or longevity pay increases to teachers, the district said. Over the same time period, the rate of inflation was 30% and the state-funded COLA was 26.9%, the district said.

The state provides funding to districts through the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF. Teacher pay is determined by steps and columns in the salary schedule.

A teacher starting at column three, step one, which the district says is the starting place for many new teachers, 13 years ago would be paid $96,252 this school year and $103,795 by 2025-26, the third year of the proposed three-year contract.

The district and union haven’t yet reached an agreement on a new contract. Teachers began the new school year without a contract and have given consensus approval to the union to call a strike authorization vote if there is no agreement by Sept. 29 — less than a month from now.

Union: District Using ‘Fuzzy Math’

Fresno Teachers Association president Manuel Bonilla said the district’s calculations are based on its “fuzzy math PR campaign,” which includes using a selective time period that shows teacher pay increases in a more positive light.

If the district had gone as far back as 2006 to the present, employee pay would be lagging inflation by 8%, or if the district had chosen a shorter time period from 2018 to 2023, employee pay would be behind by 7%, he said.

A graphic showing the growth in a teacher’s salary over the past 13 years does not show the same salary information that’s on the district’s salary schedule online, Bonilla said.

“People see the reality with their paychecks,” he said. “They see the reality when they go to the grocery store and the gas station.”

In addition to the inflationary component, there is also a competitive component to salaries, and Fresno Unified teachers are not getting top pay, Bonilla said.

Next week, the union and district will meet with the fact-finder assigned by the Public Employment Relations Board to review the offers made by both sides and come up with a recommendation. However, neither side is required to abide by the mediator’s recommendation, Bonilla said.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email