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PSRP/School Support Staff: What is the most pressing issue facing paraprofessionals who work with students with disabilities?

Comments: 40

I've been working with children with special needs for 12 years. The district I work, for some teachers don't appreciate our role as paraprofessionals; they have their own committee activities and don't include us at all. We are not allowed on the I.E.P plan meetings nor the building meetings. We are hard working and dedicated and we basically know each needs for each student. When the substitutes come to work in our classrooms, they always count on us to run the classroom smoothly. I strongly believe that we should get better pay and more training, and should not cut down paraprofessionals.

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Gloria Duplessis
West Suburban Teachers
Cicero, IL

I think there are TWO major issues: 1) being RESPECT, quit treating us like we are below standard just because we don't have that type 75. 2) being THE PAY. We do just as much, if not more, than than the techers. It's not fair and that's why the turnover rate is so high.

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Leah Cooper
Joliet, IL

We as paras are exspected to wear many hats during our day. We need to be educated and properly trained to "handle" many situations. We LOVE our jobs and most important THESE KIDS. To be their doctor, teacher, mom and dad, and support to be successful, we should be compensated to a liveable earning level. Most of us have been in these jobs for a long time because we want to and enjoy the smiling faces we see every day. I know for sure we make a difference in these children's lives, and that's what gets me up every morning! The administrators need to see us this way also!!!

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Dee Alessi
WFSP Waterford Mi
White Lake, MI

I work for a good high school in Calcasieu Parish in Louisiana. I love what I do and have very good teachers and administrators to work for. We as paraprofessionals are always ready to do what is asked of us. I'm a person who would do anything for a teacher or a student. I would like to see our salary come up to meet the fast increases in the cost of everyday living. I can hardly make it from one payday to the next. Please have a big heart this year and give us a raise so we can pay our bills. Thanks, Cathy

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cathy hodges
cft
lake charles, LA

Paraprofessionals are the most needed professionals in classrooms with students with significant disabilities. They need to be PAID according to their years of service and desire to advance their knowledge in degrees and seminars, and mastery of the program in which they serve. They need pay comparable to that of an early entry teacher if they have been a para for 10+ years! They also need TRAINING in the population of students they serve.

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Josi Ortiz
Albq Teachers Federation
Albuquerque, NM

The pressing issues are that there are not enough workshops and professional development opportunities specified for paraprofessionals to help us work with students in a more effective way. Also, we need to know how union reps for the paraprofessionals can build better chapters at the school level and help motivate other paraprofessionals to participate more in the union. A lot of paraprofessionals don't feel part of the union at all.

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Edgar Irizarry, Jr.
UFT
Bronx, NY

The most pressing issue facing paraprofessionals is trying to survive on below-poverty level wages. I personally have worked multiple jobs and seven days per week, even though I've been a full-time employee in a school district. It is a job that we paras do because we know that we make a difference in the lives of those students we support, as well as the difference we make for the districts we serve. Until the secret of our low wages is made public, I don't expect a change. I invite other paras to help me in volunteering in our communities, ring the bells for the red kettles, etc., so that our communities see our faces!

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Brenda Allen
Honeoye Falls-Lima Ed. Assoc.
Rush, NY

Instructional assistants are not recognized for their expertise, and their work experience is often discounted. Some of us have 10-plus years within this area of education. Yet, we are not consulted during the students' IEP process. We are not glorified babysitters. We are highly qualified staff. Yet, we are not receiving training to stay current in our fields. Keep your heads up, and continue the excellence in spite of the lack of recognition. We will continue the struggle.

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Lena Simmons
3AFT 4261
Portsmouth, VA

RESPECT. Having worked in the system for 39 years and now being retired, I have seen a lot and heard a lot from colleagues around the country. I concur with all my colleagues' statements, but I think RESPECT ranks rather high. We have thoughts and ideas and we need to be heard in our schools. We have a nuturing effect when working with children and we need to be recognized for our abilities and not kicked to the side. We too, need to be more active. SOLIDARITY FOREVER.

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Frank Caul
phila., GA

The most pressing issue, after shortage of personnel, is lack of training targeted at better preparing paraprofessionals to support their students with disabilities. In addition, the system treats them as outsiders when planning for the academic needs of their students.

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N Harris
Local 420
Florissant, MO

Having enough time in a day to service all the kids. No time to prepare for the day or time to do all the paperwork necessary. We are expected to keep daily tracking sheets as well as MA billing, and have no time built into our schedules to accomplish either task. Time to communicate with your team members isn't built in, either. Also, there is no opportunity for training.

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Ann Krampitz
ESP
Owatonna, MN

I've just retired but want to do substitute work. I can't because I took an offer of $5,000 plus sick leave. I can return to work after five years; by that time I will be DEAD. Our school was using us as substitute teachers while the teacher was absent, at meetings, late from lunch or any excuse the teacher might have. So now it's a Social Security issue. If we retired from TRS, we don't have any benefits until we apply in a couple more years. But our SSI check will not be as much because we have TRS. It is unfair! We worked for Social Security for when we retire. I would like help on that to give us full retirement benefits, including health insurance.

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Jimmy Cruz
Rio Grande City, TX

Paraprofessionals are essential to our programs. They should never be treated as subordinates, but as partners in the education of our children. We could not effectively do our jobs without them. My bilingual para makes it possible for our SLD students to be served in Spanish. They need the training provided by he district as much as we teachers, and should get it. We need to look at these people not as aides for us but as instructional assistants for the benefit of the children and the stability of our programs.

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Elizabeth Farris
Dallas, TX

The most pressing issue for me now is the fact that not only have I gotten no pay raise for a decade, I've just had to accept a 50-cents-an-hour pay cut, plus two unpaid furlough days. I'm already working two jobs just to support my family and I also have found that my second job interferes with my first job. I definitely cannot give my all to my students because of having to work two jobs. Instructional aides should start at $40,000 a year and top out at $55. I also would like programs to help repay student loan debt.

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holly homan
Shoreline, WA

The attempt in some places to require staff, both certificated and classified, to conduct medical procedures, inject drugs, etc. This is dangerous, unacceptable and has to be resisted before the inevitable tragedy it will produce--not afterwards.

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MaryMelissa Grafflin
UESF
San Francisco, CA

There needs to be enough help to ensure the safety of each student, and classrooms and hallways need to be adequate to accommodate wheechairs. Nurses' bathrooms need to be large enough to accommodate disabled students as well.

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Christne Taylor
Tucson, AZ

The reduction in force of special education paraprofessionals. Time spent with students is diluted by being spread too thin. Paraprofessional relationships with students with disabilities are ignored. Expertise with age group, type of student, and intervention skills are ignored, to the detriment of the students. Paraprofessionals are dropped from team meetings and planning time.

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Denise Androvette
Syracuse Teacher Association
Syracuse, NY

I've spent my 37-year career working as a para, teacher and administrator. Paraprofessionals I've worked with were complete professionals, as committed to students, parents and their colleagues as certified staff members. Too often, districts gave them more direct responsibility, less training and no time to work in planning. Most in education are subjected to disrespect with low pay and high expectations; paras are definitely in the worst position. Administrators and teachers need training on effectively using paras; paras need training customized to their strengths; and everyone needs pay commensurate with their responsibilities and accomplishments, not tests.

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Dona Stallworth
Austin, TX

Paraprofessionals are treated like second class citizens. All educators, like paras, are asked to deal with students who swear, bite, hit, and attack on a regular basis. The environment in the hallways, dining halls, bathrooms, etc., is being affected by students who are in classrooms but who belong in alternative settings. I have taught for 35 years and I feel sorry for paraprofessionals. They work hard, get paid little and often have to deal with the toughest students, with little or no support. I think if the public knew what students were exposed to in some of our schools, they would take their children out of school.

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Teresa Mellies
Lockport Education Association
Lockport, NY

In our district, we can't seem to keep paraprofessionals on the job. The pay is too little and the demands are too high.

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Debra Scovill
AFT Utah Carbon
Price,, UT

After reading all of the comments, I feel fortunate that I am in a relatively small community and am involved in my union. I am the classified VP of our union. From what I have been reading around the states on this site, it is baffling to me. Paras teaching major subjects, being substitute teachers, taking on certificated duties that are "expected," and having responsibilities that are way above their pay scale. This has to be illegal on some level. The educational code somewhere is being violated. There is no one I know more concerned about our students' welfare than paras. Our kids are important, but someone needs to say enough. Say no. Legally say no!!

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Laura Lovelady
MCFSE
Ukiah, CA

One of the most pressing issues for these Student Support Personnel paraprofessionals, experienced or new, is the lack of training in their particular unit. Also being left out of the loop when the department team meets to discuss student behavior. Any comments or statements are usually not included. The administration needs to weigh in on the cost of training against the cost of time lost due to injuries and the amount of workmans comp claims annually.

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Jack Crum
San Antonio Alliance
San Antonio, TX

I am an employee of my school district with 24 years of experience. I work with muti-handicapped elementary students. I LOVE my job and the students that are in my care. I agree that we are the forgotten, hard-working, underappreciated individuals in our schools. The teachers know this, but somehow everyone else in the district forgets about us, especially when it comes to raises. I also, sit in negotiations and listen to overpaid administrators say, "We don't have money for your raises this year." I say, let them take a pay cut and do the work we do for the amount of pay we receive!

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Terry Goforth
AFT 4574
OKC, OK

I been an instructional para for 18 years for an alternative education program. We deal with students who have issues with probation, expulsion, emotional disturbances, truancy, special education, behavioral problems and credit deficiencies--the kids no one else wants. All on one campus. Paras are underestimated, underappreciated and most definitely underpaid. My job duties have steadily increased, with more and more responsibilities. We are given mandatory trainings and expected to implement them. We need to be paid better if they are going to expect more from us. I do it now because I love the kids I work with, but it's not right or fair. We are the lowest on the pay scale.

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Laura Lovelady
MCFSE
Nice , CA

What is pressing for paraprofessionals is that schools are using paras as substitutes, job coaches and teachers. They are keeping paraprofessionals who are state certified in positions as paras because now they are required to obtain additional certification before being considered for a job. Meanwhile, we are not requiring it from alternative certification candidates or Teach for America teachers, and allowing them a year to certify in another subject. Is it fair?

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Susie Alfaro
San Antonio Alliance
San Antonio, TX

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