PARAPROFESSIONALS: Why we’re fighting for a fair contract!
WHO ARE PARAPROFESSIONALS AND WHY IS THEIR WORK IMPORTANT?
Paras in Brookline do essential and important work to support the children and teachers in Brookline.
Some paras work in mainstream school classrooms, supporting the teacher so he/she can provide attention to every student. Some paras work in Learning Centers, providing additional support to students with IEPs. Other paras work one-on-one with our most severely disabled students so they can access education. Paras are the ones who keep our technology working. They are building aides that help the day run smoothly.
Teachers and administrators rely on the work of paras to help us meet the needs of our students and to be able to do our own jobs well.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT WORKING CONDITIONS FOR PARAS?
- Hourly rates. For the majority of paraprofessionals, effective September 2015:
- In Brookline, these rates range from $15.80 to $20.84.
- By comparison, Newton rates ranged from 17.03 to 34.71
- Boston hourly rates ranged from $18.31 to $25.72.
- Annual salaries:
- Most paraprofessionals in Brookline work 6.33 hours per day. First year paraprofessionals are paid for 183 days, which makes their annual salary $17,838.
- Veteran paraprofessionals are paid for 189 days, which makes the maximum annual salary (after working 7 years) $24,935.
- The living wage in Norfolk County is $27,000 per year
- Paraprofessionals typically work two or three jobs to make ends meet. Some use the state and federal subsidies to get health insurance from the Massachusetts Connector.
WHY IS THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE’S OFFER INADEQUATE?
On November 10, the School Committee distributed their last proposal. Three main problems are:
- The School Committee’s published annual salary proposal assumes an increase to a 7-hour work day, but they have not put forth such a contract proposal. In fact, they are planning on cutting some paraprofessionals’ hours as early as next year. In addition, while their offer on starting hourly salaries is good, the top of the scale is woefully behind other communities.
- The differential offered for paraprofessionals in “special programs” is arbitrary and unfair to many other paras who do essentially the same work.
- While the School Committee says they place a priority on retaining paraprofessionals, they are unwilling to protect long-term employees from lay-offs.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THESE CONDITIONS FOR BROOKLINE SCHOOLS?
Because of the lack of a living wage, some paraprofessionals are leaving Brookline – we currently have 350 paras in the system and 125 are new this year. This is disruptive to the work of teachers and administrators and to students’ education. Brookline teachers cannot do their work effectively without well-respected and well-supported paras!
Additionally, paraprofessionals are often the ones implementing students’ 504 plans and individual education plans, both of which are federally mandated. If these working conditions continue for paras, we run the risk of being unable to meet the demands on these legally binding documents, leaving the Town vulnerable to expensive lawsuits from angry and frustrated families. Pay now or pay later.
WHAT ARE WE ASKING FOR IN A NEW CONTRACT?
Paraprofessionals need a significant and fair pay increase and job security. The BEU demands a dependable and livable wage so that we can attract and retain excellent paraprofessionals. No one who works in Brookline schools full time should be expected to live in poverty!
It seems that the Brookline School Committee sees paraprofessional work simply as transitional to another career. It is not – it is a valuable and highly needed profession. Unfortunately, the School Committee’s action is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they treat the paras as transitional, so they leave for better conditions elsewhere.
All Brookline educators stand in solidarity with paraprofessionals, for a contact that compensates them fairly and provides for decent working conditions.
WHAT CAN COMMUNITY MEMBERS DO?
We urge Brookline parents and community members to stand with us.
- Sign a card pledging to support paras in their fight for a fair contract
- Attend a school committee meeting
- Call and email school committee members
- Write a letter to the Brookline Tab
- To volunteer in other ways, contact the beu at email@example.com or 617-277-0251