Fresno Unified teachers wear black to protest contract proposal

The Fresno BeeFebruary 3, 2014 

Dozens of Fresno Unified teachers wore black Monday, protesting an employee contract pitched by administrators that lengthens school days and ties student test scores to teacher evaluations.

Children were out of school Monday while teachers did professional development training. Fresno Teachers Association union officials say they decided to use the day to speak out against the district's $71 million employment proposal.

"They're 'in mourning' because of how poor the district's proposal at the bargaining table is," said Rhonnie Tinsley, FTA executive director.

The package deal proposed by administrators in October would extend class days by 30 minutes at certain schools, add teacher training sessions, raise salaries by 2.5% and lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.

Teachers would be paid for extra hours they're asked to teach.

Union officials have argued for months the plan offers too little for classroom employees. But Tinsley said administrators won't budge on those measures or consider a higher pay proposal.

"The typical method of bargaining is, regardless of what you start out with, you start adjusting," she said.

Union officials are asking for caps on class sizes for all grade levels. They also want a 2.7% salary bonus for the previous school year plus a 6% raise for the current school year. District estimates show FTA's proposal would cost $141 million over two years.

That's simply too costly, administrators say, even with an influx of new money expected from the state this year. A recent district report estimates the retroactive bonus alone would cost $11 million.

"Fresno Unified recognizes that in mid-January, when the governor presented his proposed budget for 2014-15, he included a projected increase in the (Local Control Funding Formula)," the report reads. "However, FTA's proposal skyrocketed well beyond what is realistic to meet student needs under LCFF."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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