In the news

Law brings raises to support staff  PSRPs in Denver are celebrating a big win on pay and benefits because of their work with school officials and their engagement in Colorado’s political process.

In September, members of the Denver Federation of Paraprofessionals and Nutrition Service Employees saw raises of up to 33 percent. Thanks to teamwork in bringing funding issues to light, PSRPs in the Denver public schools got raises to at least $12 an hour, a hike benefiting 700 paraprofessionals and 500 food and nutrition workers. 

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper invited students, paras, food service workers, custodians and other school personnel to join him in signing the bill.

We have a voice again in Jefferson Parish  The Jefferson Parish (La.) School Board approval of a collective bargaining agreement with the Jefferson Federation of Teachers marks the return of school employees having a voice in education. The new three-year agreement covers more than 3,000 staff, both PSRPs and teachers.

Three years ago, the previous school board created a firestorm in the community by disrespecting its educators, refusing to acknowledge they were part of a union and rejecting their long-standing contractual relationship. Parents, union members, businesses and other community activists succeeded in electing board members who wanted to work with school staff. The board’s vote in August was a giant step in that direction by reinstating collective bargaining.

A gift of reading to honor Special Olympians  To celebrate the U.S. delegation to the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, the AFT joined partners First Book and Coca-Cola on July 27 in announcing the donation of a 50-book collection to the adaptive physical education department of the Los Angeles Unified School District. 

AFT Vice President Kathy Chavez, a former special education bus driver and paraprofessional, joined the Special Olympics cheerleading squad from Michigan, along with the AFT’s partners. The curated book collection features titles focused on the values of the games, including diversity, inclusion, overcoming adversity, athletic excellence, hard work and persistence.

Members shift momentum of lawmakers  Members of AFT-West Virginia played a starring role this spring in turning a potentially catastrophic legislative session into solid inroads for public schools. Calls and emails totaling nearly 350,000 helped turn back extreme legislation on charter schools, alternative certification, state academic standards and more—attacks promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). “The outpouring of activism by teachers and school service personnel had a direct impact on this session,” AFT-West Virginia President Christine Campbell, a national vice president, told the AFT executive council in June. 

AFT families win scholarships  AFT family members won 11 of 106 Union Plus scholarships awarded in June. The winners will use their awards—from $500 to $4,000—to attend college. Union members and their spouses and children are eligible to apply for scholarships through the annual program. More than 5,400 people from 36 unions applied for Union Plus scholarships this year. Many winners are studying biology, bioengineering and other sciences. One wants to pursue cancer research, another occupational therapy; several aspire to become doctors.

In addition to career goals, these students are committed to community work. Winner Mona Abutouk, in California, tutors children, coaches college students with disabilities and interned at a hospital for children. Sydney Busch, in Minnesota, volunteers at a science camp for girls. 

PSRP Reporter, Fall 2015 Download PDF (2.59 MB)
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