Education

Fresno teachers reach ‘revolutionary’ tentative agreement with school district

Fresno Teachers Association president talks about new agreement

Manuel Bonilla, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, talks about what made this round of negotiations with Fresno Unified different than any other time before.
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Manuel Bonilla, president of the Fresno Teachers Association, talks about what made this round of negotiations with Fresno Unified different than any other time before.

The Fresno Teachers Association has reached a tentative agreement with Fresno Unified School District — a deal Superintendent Bob Nelson called revolutionary.

The union bargained for a cap on class sizes, more money for special education, an increase in salary and the hiring of more nurses.

But it’s not the items in the agreement reached Wednesday that are necessarily the revolutionary part, according to FTA President Manuel Bonilla. It’s the bargaining process this time around. It’s happening at a much faster pace than any other year on record.

“Last time we were on the verge of a strike,” Bonilla said. “Bargaining took 18 months; (it was) very contentious. Many times communication broke down.”

Nelson agreed. He said since the teacher’s strike in 1978, “the relationship between the district and the union has been characterized by, at best, not loving.”

Bonilla said this time the union and the district have been able to tackle some big issues in under five months.

Although the specifics of the agreement haven’t been ratified, the union is tackling class sizes. Beginning July 1, core classes in middle school will be capped at 28.

For the 2019-20 school year, a teacher who is over 33 students at the elementary level will get a choice of a $2,000 yearly stipend or a teacher’s aide.

At the secondary level, teachers in core classes with over 36 students have a choice of $500 or a teacher’s aide.

Teachers will get a 3% ongoing salary raise with a 1.5% one-time payment.

Next is taking the contract to FTA members for approval and getting it ratified with the district, which will take place at a later date, the board announced Wednesday.

Ashleigh Panoo: 559-441-6010, @AshleighPanoo
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