Lawmakers seek congressional support for paraprofessionals and other school staff

Connecticut Rep. Jahana Hayes recently introduced a resolution calling on Congress to affirm its support for providing living wages, good benefits and fair working conditions to paraeducators, classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodial workers and others who are vital to our public education system.

According to a 2022 EdWeek survey, a third of paraprofessionals say they work two or more jobs, with the additional jobs typically outside of education. Additionally, more than a quarter of paraprofessionals say they cannot afford to live in the community where they work, and some workers say they are forced to rely on government or community assistance to support themselves or their families.

“I can speak with fidelity to the benefit of having paraprofessionals and support staff in our schools. Their support and assistance are invaluable to student learning. These staff members play a vital role in the success of students and the school community, yet struggle to make ends meet,” Hayes said in a statement. “The Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Resolution urges the need for improved wages, better access to benefits, and recognizes the efforts of these dedicated workers. This legislation aims to attract and retain support staff in our schools.”

Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey, who this fall introduced the same version of the resolution in the Senate, said: “For too long, we have asked paraprofessionals and education support staff to do too much with too little. We have asked them to educate, feed, transport and support students in their path to grow, learn and thrive – all without the pay, benefits and job security they deserve. My Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights is a call for action to provide these workers with the dignity, respect and recognition that they have long deserved. Well-paid, well-treated, union staff make stronger schools and stronger communities.”

The resolutions call on Congress to support giving paraprofessionals and education support staff:

  • Livable, competitive wages and access to benefits, including health care and paid leave;
  • The supplies, resources and training they need to do their jobs;
  • A meaningful voice in workplace policies and the right to negotiate for better working conditions;
  • The dignity of safe, healthy and adequately staffed workplaces; and
  • Year-round job security and opportunities for growth.

Across the country, AFSCME paraprofessionals and school support staff go above and beyond to serve their communities’ children. Read some of their stories of solidarity and service herehere and here.