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

Comments: 40

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

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

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

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

I was a paraprofessional for 20 years. Cutting back the paraprofessional staff is big mistake. This puts more paperwork on teachers, so there's less time spent with students. Children with disabilities deserve an education!

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Elizabeth Collins
Magnolia, TX

Paras would like professional development geared to us. We would like to be more informed and respected by administrators and teachers. Some don't value our work. PreK-3rd paras are exposed to more sickness. They use up sick days from catching what kids share. Paras who work with volatile students have a physical demand put on them that others do not, being hit or chasing an emotional student. Safety is a key issue. Paras are concerned about liability when toileting students when no one else can assist. Para pay is very low and not a livable wage, but we keep coming back because of the REAL difference we make in student's lives!

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Valarie Bordenkircher
Local 809
Quincy, IL

Paraprofessionals wear many hats. We take home the concerns of a parent as they relate to the children we work with. We touch their lives and they touch ours. We are in many positions of caring for children who are very fragile physically and mentally. But we feel our profession is not respected, not treated as equal or important because we do the jobs that our administrators could not and would not be employed to do. We are the least paid, the most dependable and concerned employees, but the least valued. When will we be counted valuable?

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Velda Glass
FBEF #6198
Houston, TN

TOO MUCH WORK FOR VERY LITTLE PAY. I unload and load these children off and on a bus every day. I diaper them, tube feed them, teach them in in-class support, dress them and clean them. Those who are not tube fed are fed orally by me. I have even changed a colostomy bag. I also do data collection every day for my teacher. Occasionally, I deal with a student who is emotionally disturbed, which means I have been hit, kicked, scratched and bitten.

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Judy Chase
Humble, TX

I work tirelessly with students, tutoring them in math reading, writing and other core subjects to create ways that will get them to learn and excel. Yet, I'm not included in any IEP or other important meetings scheduled by professional staff I assist. Nor do I have a desk with a computer. I'm constantly typing assignments or schedules for students, teachers and other work assigned by the assistant principal. Also, teaching assistants' names are not included on the doors where they are assigned to work at my building--only teachers and other support professionals, and some of them only work there two days a week. These issues need to be addressed.

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Lisa Sweet
Alliance/AFT
Dallas, TX

Paraprofessionals are left out of the educational team when servicing students with disabilities. Their opinions and suggestions are ignored. Many professsionals discount their ideas using the excuse that we paraprofessionals don't have anything worthy to contribute due to the fact that we are non-degreed educational staff.

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Shyluer Barthlett
STX Fed. of Teachers local 1826
St. Croix, VI

I would like to see paras and teaching assistants be included in all the meetings that are about any of the students who will be in our class. Many of us are with our kids all day long and do not have free periods available to read their files and discuss their needs and how we can best help. When I first started years ago, I had a student with Aspergers. I had never heard of it and wished that there had been time over the summer to learn about it.

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karen healy
fairport, NY

Working with students with disabilities who also have behavior problems.

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Melanie Davidson
Dayton, TX

I don't work with students who have disabilities anymore, but when I did seven years ago, in Denton I.S.D., the most pressing issue I experienced was having been attacked by a student on numerous occasions. This student had to wear a 'special vest' daily while riding the school bus. This limited his arm movement. However, he did not wear it in the classroom. My injuries required medical attention. I received minimal support from the classroom teacher and the high school principal. After my doctor released me, the principal informed me that I was to return to that same position and if I chose not to, I could quit.

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Lou Sines
Haltom City, TX

Many paras are doing many of the same duties as certified teachers, yet the pay doesn't put them above the national poverty line. There are very few things that special ed paras are not expected to do at some point during the year, from teaching class, modifying assignments, grading papers, and preparing students for the state tests, to still changing diapers and dealing with severe behavior issues, including violent acting out. These paras can do literally anything--yet don't make enough to be financially self-sufficient.

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crystal mitchell
corpus christi, TX

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