Fresno Unified School District’s first contract proposal presented Thursday to the Fresno Teachers Association includes an 11% salary increase over the next three years that would be contingent on state funding.
The district had previously agreed to pay 100% of health care premiums for individuals. Families of three or larger would pay a monthly premium of $260.
The current average Fresno Unified teacher salary is $90,512, and teachers also receive benefits, retirement contributions, stipends, and additional pay for coaching or other duties that raises the total average compensation to six figures, the district said in a news release.
With the 11% increase, which would be tied to the state’s Local Control Funding Formula cost-of-living adjustment, would raise the average Fresno teacher salary to $100,305, the district said.
By comparison, Los Angeles Unified recently approved 21% pay raises for teachers that will raise average teacher salaries there to $106,000. And because the cost of living is so much higher in LA, Fresno teachers are making 133% of LA teachers, the district said.
The district notes that the pay raises would be subject to change if the state revises its funding model or if the district is unable to maintain its financial reserves.
Manuel Bonilla, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, said later Thursday that the district’s calculation of an “average” Fresno teacher salary is not from base salaries but also includes the extra salary that some teachers get if their work at Designated Schools, which have a longer school day, or in other positions that have extra pay. Those extras bump up pay for some and also make the overall average look larger, he said.
District spokeswoman Nikki Henry said on Friday, however, that the average annual pay is based off the School Services of California calculation of the district’s 2021-22 teacher pay and does not include extras.
Bonilla said FUSD’s offer is not as generous as the district is trying to portray, because the district wants to offset pay increases with “significant” cuts in health care funding. The district’s health care provider is the self-funded Joint Health Management Board.
“We have health care contributions that increase based off of additional funding that comes into the state, it’s base grant revenue. This was negotiated in 2005, the 2006 contract. They want to completely eliminate that,” he said. “They want to reset that number after they do a 14% reduction in health care contributions. Only then, only if we agree to that, will they agree to this 11% estimated amount over the course of three years.”
Henry confirmed Friday that the district is proposing to reduce the per-employee health care fund contribution to $21,000, however, “as we have heard from our labor partners and JHMB that we are overfunded in our health fund.”
In addition to maintaining health care contributions, the union wants the district to pass along the cost-of-living adjustments that the state makes to the Local Control Funding Formula, which he said this year was 13.26%, but “the district gave us 6.”
Bonilla said teachers also are unhappy about how the district “doubled down” on tying teacher evaluations to student test scores and refused to set limits for special education class sizes.
When Superintendent Bob Nelson called the contract proposal “historic and transformative” in a video last week, “If he meant historically bad, accurate,” Bonilla said. “This is not something I think that teachers feel is going to meaningfully impact learning in Fresno Unified.”
New Bargaining Method Attempted
The district’s proposal Thursday comes 30 days before the current contract expires. The original three-year contract was from 2019-2022 but was extended one year during the pandemic by mutual agreement.
The district and union had been attempting to negotiate using interest-based bargaining, in which the two sides attempt to reach agreement on mutual interests. But when it was clear that the negotiations were faltering, the union last week submitted its “last, best, and final offer” during the May 24 School Board meeting and after a boisterous rally on N Street.
At the rally the teachers delivered an overwhelming show of support for a strike vote authorization in October if no contract is signed by Sept. 29.
The district’s news release Thursday noted that officials are “proud to see Fresno Teacher Association’s focus on student achievement and meeting student needs as it is in alignment with our deep investments in student support in past years and upcoming years.”
The FTA had sought 27% raises and $27,500 bonuses over this year and the next three years in a 26-page document that also included a series of student- and family-oriented proposals, including smaller class sizes, installing washers and dryers at schools, providing pantries at schools for food and personal hygiene items, providing 24-hour mental health services for students and families, and opening school parking lots for homeless families.
At least one item has already been implemented: the School Board agreed to install washers and dryers at middle schools.
Can’t Bargain ‘Student Investments’
But the district noted in Thursday’s news release that “while student investments are outside of the scope of bargaining, and therefore not in our package proposal, just last year Fresno Unified invested more than $30 million in ongoing school site staffing to support students, classrooms, and teachers.”
For the 2023-24 school year the district is proposing to allocate three times as much for direct site support through staffing, programming, and improvements.
The district’s 17-page proposal also includes:
- Elementary teachers whose classes exceed 32 students for at least half of the school year starting in September could choose between an augmentation aide or a $2,000 pay boost, to be paid at the end of the school year.
- Paraprofessionals would assist teachers when transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classes average 25 or more students.
- Clarifying that evaluating teachers in part on student assessments was already part of prior contract language. Teachers have been raising that method of evaluation as a point of contention.
- Teachers who apply and are accepted by the district to teach at schools identified as having the highest student need would get a $10,000 salary bump but would have to remain in the assignment for at least three years.
Heading for Mediation?
Bonilla said the union has already requested mediation as the next step, which would be followed by fact-finding. Mediation is overseen by the Public Employee Relations Board, and how quickly the mediation can proceed will depend on the two sides agreeing on a mediator, he said.
Clovis Unified and the district’s unionized school psychologists recently reached agreement on the district’s first-ever contract for certificated staff seemingly shortly after the two sides moved into mediation.
“I hope that’s the case (with Fresno Unified). But based off of everything that’s happened so far, I don’t know that’s going to happen in this particular situation,” Bonilla said.