The Fresno Teachers Association closed down a part of Tulare Street outside the Fresno Unified board meeting Wednesday evening for a rally over its ongoing contract negotiations with the school district.
The FTA, which got a permit to close the street, contends the district has not directly addressed student needs in its contract proposal. Organizers estimated more than 1,000 people turned out in support of the FTA.
“We’ve spent 11 months trying to complete our contract,” said FTA bargaining chair and Sunnyside High school teacher Jon Bath. “Teachers are so angry and feel disrespected.”
The district released a proposal, but it didn’t address any student needs, said Bath, like special education. Teachers also want a cap on class size to give students more attention.
“We’re stunned that they didn’t even give us a single number on class size,” Bath said.
Bath said although the district’s proposal offered a 3.5 percent salary increase over three years and a better healthcare plan for teachers, it’s not enough. “Teachers aren’t happy about a one percent (per year) pay raise,” he said.
Bath said the silence from the board drove the FTA to organize the rally. He wants the district to either acknowledge their proposals or “tell us they’re not willing to do this.”
The next step for the association is to proceed to mediation, then fact-finding, and as a last resort, a strike.
“We want to work with you,” Bath said about the district. “We thought it was negotiations, not: ‘Our way or the highway.’ ”
Fresno Unified said in a statement that any talk of a strike is premature because the district and FTA are still negotiating. The district expects to receive the FTA’s counter-proposal soon, according to the statement.
FTA President Tish Rice said it has taken too long to get things changed. She said a few things have been changed, like not basing teacher salary on yearly evaluations, but other topics like teachers having control over curriculum and student discipline has not been touched.
“The district,” she said, “has the money to do the right thing for their students.”