Teachers unimpressed with Fresno Unified’s “11th hour” proposal ahead of strike vote

Fresno Unified tried presenting a new offer to quell a teacher strike. Representatives for Fresno’s teachers were wholly unimpressed.

Negotiations have intensified between Fresno Unified School District and the Fresno Teachers Association ahead of a potential strike vote next week. 

Both sides held press conferences on Friday to push their messages out to the public, taking a break from the bargaining process. 


The big picture: The FTA is threatening to vote on authorizing a strike on Oct. 18 unless a new contract is reached. 

  • After largely radio silence for the last several months, the two sides have returned to mediated negotiations every day since Oct. 5. 
  • Fresno Unified submitted its second proposal to the FTA on Friday, which can be viewed here

The district’s proposal: Fresno Unified’s proposal would offer teachers 19 percent raises over the three-year life of the contract, bringing the average teacher salary up to $103,000. The raises would be split by a 14 percent ongoing increase, with the remaining five dished out in one-time payments split over two years. 

  • On the healthcare front, the district is offering what it calls a bridge to Medicare. Once teachers reach the age of 57.5 and have 20 years of service with the district, they will be offered the same active employee plan at the same premium if they retire until they reach 65 and qualify for Medicare. Once on Medicare, retired teachers would still receive additional coverage from the district. 
  • Amid calls to lower class sizes, Fresno Unified is proposing loose guidelines to bring down the size limits over the next two years, along with an extra stipend for teachers with class sizes a certain number over a prescribed threshold.

The other side: The FTA is arguing that Fresno Unified waited until the 11th hour to seriously negotiate on the four issues the union considers at the core of the negotiations: boosting classroom investment, restoring key teacher healthcare benefits, reducing class sizes for TK-12 and reducing special education caseloads. 

  • The FTA is seeking higher salary increases than offered by the district, arguing that the proposal falls short of the projected cost-of-living adjustment dating back to last school year.
  • The FTA is also accusing Fresno Unified of cutting healthcare contributions to finance one-time pay increases. Nelson said the district would cut around $3,000 per employee from the healthcare fund contribution that the district gives to the joint health management board because the healthcare reserve is well-funded and the district wants to put that money back in the pockets of its employees. Teachers argue that the district is looking to eliminate the reserve through underfunding it on an on-going basis.
  • On the topic of class sizes, the FTA’s response is that the district’s proposal offers little relief to students and teachers while not providing enough of a financial incentive to limit class sizes. 

What they’re saying: “To use an analogy, in my time in the classroom I’ve seen many students like Superintendent Nelson,” FTA President Manuel Bonilla said. “They spend their entire school year failing to do their assignments, doing poorly on their tests, and at the end of the school year or end of the semester they come up and ask how much extra credit they could do to get their F to an A+. Unfortunately for Superintendent Nelson, he hasn’t done much to get that failed negotiation grade up to an A+ for our students and for our educators.”

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