There are some important issues and changes in law that directly impact school support staff the Illinois Education Association wants to draw your attention to, including:
A survey for teachers’ aides and classroom paraprofessionals who have been physically harmed on school grounds to share your experiences; A new law that allows employees of special education co-ops who are part of the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund system to count unused sick days toward retirement from one district when they go to another; The state’s new $15 minimum wage law, and; A new measure that allows schools to tap into additional money to hire school counselors, mental health professionals and resource officers to improve safety. 

1. First up, the survey 
Are you a teachers’ aide or classroom paraprofessional who has been physically harmed on school grounds between Aug. 1, 2017 and June 1, 2020?
 Charles Bell, Ph.D., an assistant professor of criminal justice studies at Illinois State University, is looking for teachers and teachers’ aides from middle schools and high schools (grades six to 12) in Illinois to participate in his research study, which is exploring educator victimization, safety and your perceptions of school punishment.

The information will be used to make school policy recommendations regarding the safety of K-12 educators and staff members. All responses are confidential and respondents will be paid $50 each for completing the study.

The Illinois Education Association has agreed to promote this study to help gather data in regard to a new business item passed at the 2019 IEA Representative Assembly, in which the IEA was directed by members “to develop a toolkit to help local leaders bring awareness to and provide support and proactive strategies to represent the needs of members who have been victims of physical or sexual assault at work.”

Bell has agreed to share his findings with IEA when the study is complete.

Please feel free to share this study with your teachers. If you have any questions about the study, please feel free to email Bell at CABELL6@ILSTU.EDU or call 313-953-6772.

2. New sick day law
In the past, employees of special education co-operatives who contribute to the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund have not been eligible to keep accumulated unused unpaid sick leave when they leave that district and apply it toward their retirement when they go to a new district.

With special education co-operatives dissolving in many areas of the state, this is a major issue for IEA’s teacher aides and classroom paraprofessionals.

So, in the most recent legislative session, IEA drafted and worked with members in the metro east area and legislators to pass House Bill 2884, which allows IMRF contributors to leave those accumulated days with the current district (up to a year’s worth) and apply them toward their final retirement calculations, no matter which district they are employed in when they finally do retire. This is a major victory for IEA members.

3. $15 minimum wage law
The IEA has been fighting for a living wage for years and this year, the Illinois legislature finally passed a $15 minimum wage law.

The new plan will raise the Illinois minimum wage to $9.25 per hour from $8.25 on Jan. 1, followed by a gradual increase every year until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025.

IEA anticipates this will help raise the pay of members who currently fall below the $15 per hour threshold, but also likely will help raise the pay of other members as the bottom of the scale rises.

4. School safety hires
Legislation also was passed this year that directs districts to develop threat assessment teams made up of school personnel, mental health professionals and local law enforcement to determine whether there are threats in the district and how to address them.

It also allows the district to expand the use of the countywide 1-cent-sales-tax dollars some counties have passed to pay for building projects to also pay for safety improvements, as well as personnel to help keep schools safe, including school resource officers, school counselors and other mental health professionals.