The Fresno Unified school board on Wednesday voted 6-1 to ratify an agreement with the Fresno Teachers Association, effectively ending more than a year of negotiations and the threat of a teacher strike.
Trustee Brooke Ashjian was the only member to cast a dissenting vote, although some trustees hesitated on a single part of the agreement – how the district will work on decreasing class sizes without taxing residents.
According to a side letter agreement in the contract signed last month, Fresno Unified and the FTA agreed to establish a team to study the possible use of a parcel tax or “special tax revenues” to reduce class sizes and improve student achievement.
Ashjian said the agreement was added to the contract at the last second and is unfair to taxpayers. “I’m not going to go to taxpayers in one of the poorest counties in the nation and say, ‘I need more,’” Ashjian said. “Anyone who votes to do this is not doing their job.”
Trustees Claudia Cazares, Carol Mills and Christopher De La Cerda echoed Ashjian’s sentiments that the money could be found in the current budget.
Trustee Valerie Davis said she felt confident enough to ratify the agreement as is, leaving the tax open to future discussion. “We are not bound or obligated by it,” she said.
On Tuesday evening, the Fresno Teachers Association members voted on the agreement with 2,001 out of 2,166 voting “yes,” according to an FTA news release. The agreement includes a total 8.5 percent salary increase for teachers over three years; changes to health care and district-wide reductions to classroom sizes.
Thousands of Fresno Unified teachers in October voted to authorize the FTA to call a strike if an agreement couldn’t be reached.
“We are pleased this contract has been ratified and that our efforts have made improvements for all our students in Fresno Unified,” Jon Bath, negotiations chair for FTA, said. “We look forward to working with the district to further improve educaiton in Fresno.”
Staff writer Mackenzie Mays contributed to this report.