Fresno State will pull hundreds of aspiring teachers from Fresno Unified classrooms and host a “teach-in” in the case of a potential strike, but the university says those actions don’t mean it’s taking sides.
“I want to make it clear that Fresno State has no position on the labor discussions within FUSD. It would be inappropriate for the university to express a view on this matter,” Fresno State president Joseph Castro said Friday.
Fresno State’s School of Education notified students last week that if a strike happens, the university will remove its more than 200 student teachers completing field experience in Fresno Unified classrooms from the district during the work stoppage. Students will also be required to attend a “teach-in” during a strike, focusing on “the labor movement and the repercussions that those involved in teacher strikes in the past have experienced.”
The university can’t legally stop a student from working as a substitute teacher during the strike (teachers who substitute during a strike will make a hefty $500 a day) but that is “highly discouraged,” according to a memo sent to teacher candidates by Fresno State’s Dean of Education Paul Beare on Nov. 9.
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Unfortunately, this letter was interpreted by some as indicating that the university was taking a position on the current labor discussions between the FUSD Administration and its teachers.
Fresno State President Joseph Castro
No Fresno State student’s grade can be effected by “honoring the picket lines,” according to Beare.
“We love this district and its faculty/staff. Because of the potential of a teacher’s strike however, we have had to make contingency plans should this potential become a reality … ” Beare said in the letter. “Our concern is the welfare of our teacher candidates, (students) and the community. We sincerely hope that the teachers and the district are able to negotiate their differences and continue their excellent efforts in educating Fresno’s children.”
While the Fresno Teachers Association has praised the university’s decision, Beare said Friday that it was not a political statement, but out of concern of a lack of supervision for student teachers.
“We are totally neutral, by law, and also because we work with these folks. We have to pull our teachers and interns because if there’s no one there to supervise them, then we are liable,” he said. “They’re grown ups. They can do anything they want. But it’s not part of their student teaching if they do so.”
211Fresno State students currently working toward their degrees in Fresno Unified classrooms
The teachers union shared Beare’s letter to social media on Thursday.
“Teachers should be encouraged that this valued educational institution recognized the severity of the situation,” the Fresno Teachers Association said of Fresno State. “We share the institution’s concern about the welfare of our students and community, and hope that the district addresses our concerns so a strike is avoided.”
But in a statement on Friday, Castro seemed to take issue with that assessment.
“Unfortunately, this letter was interpreted by some as indicating that the university was taking a position on the current labor discussions between the FUSD Administration and its teachers,” Castro said.
Fresno Unified and the FTA are still awaiting a recommendation on negotiations from a neutral third party, after taking the issues to a fact-finding panel earlier this month.
We share the institution’s concern about the welfare of our students and community, and hope that the district addresses our concerns so a strike is avoided.
Fresno Teachers Association
The district said Friday it is “extremely disappointed” in FTA for “attempting to create a wedge between” the district and Fresno State.
“Fresno Unified continues to believe that an agreement can be reached with teachers and is committed to honoring the recommendations of the upcoming fact-finding report to make that happen,” said district spokesman Miguel Arias. “The district continues to ask our teachers union to make that same commitment.”
While teachers voted in October to authorize union leadership to move forward with a strike if it comes to that, a strike cannot legally happen until the third party makes its suggestions, and then the district and the union will have a chance to accept or decline those recommendations.
Fresno Unified is “extremely disappointed” in FTA for “attempting to create a wedge between” the district and Fresno State.
Earlier this month, the Sacramento City Unified School District and its teachers union agreed on a contract just two days before teachers planned to strike.
Fresno teachers and district officials have been going head to head for more than a year over issues including teacher pay, health benefits and class sizes.
At a recent school board meeting, Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson said he couldn’t comment on fact-finding, which is confidential, but that “a strike is not imminent, and there’s still an opportunity to reach an agreement.”