FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Unified and its teachers union have signed a new contract, avoiding a strike and providing educators with a significant pay raise.
The Fresno Unified Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve the agreement at its regularly scheduled board meeting Wednesday night.
It came just hours after the Fresno Teacher's Association (FTA) voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement, with 92 percent of members in favor.
Earlier Wednesday, FTA members gathered at Chukchansi Park for last minute questions regarding the agreement.
"I am extremely happy to not be on a picket line and standing here instead and celebrating. Celebrating a win not just for teachers but for the community and most importantly-- the students," said Fresno High teacher, Peter Beck.
After 18 months of back and forth, the district and teachers association have agreed on a deal to keep educators in the classroom.
"People see the thoughts and vision put into action. And like we said, this lays the foundation for the work ahead," said FTA president, Manuel Bonilla.
As of last night, he said about 90% of members are in support of ratifying the tentative agreement.
In the agreement, salaries would increase 21% over the three-year term.
That's a gradual increase of 16% and 5% in one-time payments.
"We were able to strengthen the beginning salary from last to above average. And then strengthen the ending salary for our veteran educators, so again, it takes us last in that area and close to the top," said Bonilla.
The agreement also calls for FTA and the district to work together, to place a bond measure on the ballot, so Fresno taxpayers can decide on whether they want to help pay for large improvements to Fresno Unified campuses - including more classroom space.
"We anticipate it passing, particularly with educator support we anticipate it passing. If there needs to be a backup plan, we'll definitely design something at that point," said Bonilla.
One area important to the FTA was reducing special needs caseloads. The new deal doesn't include a way to reduce but it does create guidelines for special needs caseloads.
Bonilla adds, this was never previously addressed in previous years.
"If there is overage in any way, there's compensation and provides a financial disincentive to the district to keep those remaining low," said Bonilla.