As we read about “teacher” strikes across the country and the fight for better pay, smaller class sizes, sound infrastructure and adequate resources for schools, we don’t often hear about the paraprofessional and school support staff who also are walking the picket lines and making sure that children are cared for and their families fed during these walkouts. Paraprofessional and school support personnel are just as important as teachers and make just as much of a difference on strike day — and every day.
It’s not surprising that paraprofessional and support staff remain largely ignored during coverage of work actions. By definition, they work in a supporting role behind the scenes to make sure schools and colleges run smoothly, so sometimes they can seem invisible.
Paraprofessional and Support Staff Losing Pay
Classified employees, or paraprofessional and support staff, are most often paid hourly. In many cases, if they’re offered healthcare insurance, it’s unaffordable. The district often cuts back their hours just far enough so that they’re not eligible for any benefits. This differs from their teacher or administrative co-workers. So, when school is out for bad weather or building-related issues, paraprofessional and support staff lose pay, while their co-workers do not.
Paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians, secretaries and the many other job categories are vital to their entire school or college communities. It’s important to acknowledge the work they do and to ensure they have the resources and respect they deserve.