Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson signs a tentative agreement with the Fresno Teachers' Association to avert a strike on Oct. 31, 2023. Credit: Julianna Morano / Fresnoland

What's at stake?

With a new teachers' contract ratified, now the district has to find $30 to $40 million in cuts to make in their upcoming budget process to accommodate higher salaries in the agreement.

Fresno Unified teachers have a new contract.

Both Fresno Teachers Association members and the district’s school board gave their stamp of approval Wednesday to the tentative agreement unveiled at a press conference the day before. 

The union and district struck the deal just in time, averting the strike the teachers union had planned to launch Nov. 1.

92% of FTA members who participated in the vote Wednesday afternoon threw their support behind it, according to the union.

“This agreement is an historic investment in the future of our children,” FTA President Manuel Bonilla said in a press release announcing the ratification, “and the future of Fresno.”

The school board also voted unanimously in favor of the long-awaited agreement at a regular meeting Wednesday evening.

“There’s a reason you haven’t seen a strike in Fresno since 1978,” Superintendent Bob Nelson said at Wednesday’s board meeting. “When I came here in 1991, there were still people ticked off about the 1978 strike. Because it’s really, really hard on a community. I could not be more thankful to sit here today where our kids had the opportunity to be in class this morning.”

The contract comes with 21% salary gains over the next three years, a new pathway to lifetime medical benefits for longtime employees, and reduced class size ratios for every grade level.

The compromise was hard-won, following a tense year-and-a-half of negotiations. The bargaining teams were criticized during fact-finding and by the district’s board president for getting as close as they did to a strike.

There’s also a long road ahead to implement some of the contract’s stipulations. 

The district will have to make $30 and $40 million in cuts to other areas of the district’s budget for the 2024-25 school year to fund the contract, spokesperson Nikki Henry told Fresnoland Tuesday. That doesn’t include layoffs or getting rid of any positions, she added.

Fresno Unified is also considering a bond measure in 2024 and would use a third of the funds from it to pay for the construction of additional classroom spaces to help reduce class sizes.

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