Saturday, January 28, 2012

Grossly Underpaid Paraprofessionals (And Other Bad Ideas)

Starting yearly salary of ASD Superintendent Dr. Mayo: $170,000.00 + perks (five year contract)
Starting yearly salary of an ASD Paraprofessional (teachers aide):$11,200.00

Newly elected ASD Superintendent Dr. Mayo will be making more than 15x the salary of a para and over 4x the salary of a teacher. Paras are considered educational support staff. Many work with children who have multiple disabilities. It's not an easy job. I know this because I have subbed for paras. I enjoy subbing for paras and would enjoy working as a para, but the pay is beyond insulting. I'm a certified tenured teacher, but as a para I would only earn 11.2k. to start. I would get no additional pay for being highly qualified and experienced. Paras are required to have completed two years of college. I have met paras who are certified teachers as well.They are grossly underpaid and undervalued. They don't even earn a living wage. In this "great" country, people who work with animals are paid more than people who work with children. 15 paras could help a lot of children in the ASD. We need more paras, not less, to meet the needs of children in overcrowded classrooms. It's outrageous that a superintendent makes so much money, and a para makes so little. I admire the paras because they really love working with children, and are willing to do it for almost free. They make a huge difference in students lives.

Teachers are willing to work without pay in the bankrupt Chester Upland SD, and that's because teaching is more than just a job, it's a calling. The children need to be educated. It's not about the money. That's one of the many reasons why merit pay, as a motivator for "high quality" teachers, is a dumb idea. The geniuses should really be concerned about giving teachers the necessary resources to do their jobs,instead of bribing them with bonuses for "excellence." The teaching profession is not about competing for bonuses, or winning a race - but it is about collaborating to provide equal opportunities for children. Teachers and paras collaborate so that all students can achieve.

Public schools must accept ALL students- even the forlorn and forgotten, the hungry , the abused, the homeless, the ragged, and the inconsolable. Teachers can not choose students like a business can choose the best materials and the best workers to get the job done, or fire the bad workers when they don't produce results. Teachers can't fire the bad kids. Running a school like a business is a dumb idea. Learning is not about the bottom line. A school is nothing like a business, it's a learning environment that promotes child development and growth. Learning is a journey, not a race. Schools should promote exploration, not standardization. The purpose of public education is to promote an engaged citizenry, not a compliant workforce.The suits in administration don't get that, neither does Arne Duncan or President Obama. We must advocate for a more humanistic approach to education policy. A corporate takeover of public education is now happening, and it must be derailed.

Administrators, where is the REAL shared sacrifice? Why do administrators make so much money? Teachers in the ASD have agreed to a pay freeze. And they have agreed to follow a standards aligned system with rigor and resiliency (whatever the latest jargon means). They have agreed to administer useless testing, while spending valuable planning time crunching meaningless data, completing endless paperwork, and enduring demoralizing professional development BS and scrutiny. Teachers have been denied the freedom to teach creatively. That's a HUGE sacrifice. Teachers and paras want to be there for the kids, regardless of the bullshit they are required to endure, or the insulting meager pay they receive. Teachers spend their own money on supplies because the school district does not even provide basic necessities like Kleenex.

Former disgraced ASD Superintendent Gerald Zahorchak made 195k. per year plus perks. He abruptly jumped ship, after overhauling the curriculum, destabilizing our schools, and leaving tax payers to pay his exorbitant yearly salary plus a buy out fee. Yeah, he cares about the kids. By the way, where is Dr. Zero? He's supposed to be "consulting." Where's the data? And why is Dr. Mayo continuing Dr. Zero's unproven initiatives? We all pay the price for dumb ideas. Don't drink the corporate Kool-Aid.


Anonymous said...

I am a teaching assistant in New York and work in special ed at Questar III. The work is extremely demanding and stressful and the paras do not get paid anything near their worth. I do not earn a living wage nor do any of my paraprofessional colleagues at Questar III in New York. Many of us have to collect subsidies from government sources to eat and live.

The problem is the way the "system" currently operates -- Paraprofessionals are usually represented by the same union lawyers and negotiators as the teachers. The union lawyers and negotiators are not working for the paraprofessionals even though they claim to be. Administration budgets monies to satisfy the teachers and themselves. The last guy on the totem pole in the entire institution are the paras.

The bottom line is that the Paraprofessionals need to break from the teacher's unions and form their own unions. Only then will they have fair union representation.

Sad it is.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Thanks for commenting. It is a very sad situation. Paras should be paid much more for doing such an important, difficult, and demanding job.

Rachelle Storjohann said...

I don't even know how old this post is, and I don't care because the issue is still valid. I have been a para in Missouri for 5 years (this coming year is my 6th). I was a SPED para for 4 years and was a classroom para (more of a teacher's aide) for the past year and will be again this year. Last year, I had my own classroom, which I decorated and managed, planned my own lessons, and took 9 reading groups of 6 kids each, 1 math class of 21 children, and 1 intervention group of 8 children in my day. Like any other teacher, I have a plan time in addition to my lunch--because I need it. I plan all of my own lessons for each reading group, on different reading levels, each math group and each intervention group. I go to the teacher professional development and provide anecdotal notes as well as data for teachers.
This job is the job of a teacher. I make less than 12K a year. I spend nights at home grading, working on lessons and free days organizing and decorating my classroom. Schools are realizing that if they call a position "para" they can pay whatever they want...and it's not right.
As a SPED para, I did as much work. I learned sign language for one of my kids, because no one gave him any kind of communication device and he was nonverbal. I planned his communication lessons, and rather than the SPED teacher, I was the one who met with his SLP and the district Autism Specialist about him. His mother addressed her notes to me rather than to his teachers. Again, I got paid next to nothing.
In Missouri, I am eligible for food stamps. It's not right that I do the things I do and still make so little that the state has determined that I cannot feed myself on my own salary. Not only that, but I often feel discarded because I am a para. At professional development recently, the end of the day came and an activity was still going on, a "team" activity, but an announcement came on: "Paras are dismissed. Activities will continue after you have clocked out." Why not just say, "Paras are don't matter and we don't want to pay you anymore."?
I have 2 Master's degrees in addition to my undergrad. I am an educated, smart person and I strive every day to make a difference to kids, but I cannot feed myself and clothe myself and put a roof over my own head. I fear I might have to quit because of these things...but the saddest part is, the district doesn't care. They'll hire anyone else with 60 college credit hours and say "whatever."
It burns me to the core to think of how undervalued paras are.

Mrs. Dottie said...

Rachelle, thank you so much for commenting and sharing your story. I was not aware that paras were allowed to supervise and instruct an entire class of children! Wow, you have all the responsibilities of a teacher, but are not even being paid a living wage! Where is your union? Would you mind if I made your comment into a post?