The resolution calls for living wages, good benefits, and fair working conditions for paraeducators, classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodial workers, and others
Washington (November 6, 2023) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, introduced the Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights, a resolution that would call for living wages, good benefits, and fair working conditions for the paraeducators, classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodial workers, and others who serve as the backbone of our education system by providing essential services which keep schools running and students thriving. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are cosponsors of the resolution.
Paraprofessionals and education support staff far too often work for low wages, few benefits, and without job security. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, 331,000 school staff have left their jobs. A 2022 survey found that one in five paraprofessionals recently visited a food pantry, while 25 percent said they could not afford to live in the communities where they worked. Yet, families rely on paraeducators as often the only heritage language speakers in schools; on bus drivers to safely transport their children; on food service workers to provide healthy meals; and on instruction assistants to ensure all students access high quality education.
“For too long, we have asked paraprofessionals and education support staff to do too much with too little,” said Senator Markey. “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.”
A copy of the resolution text can be found HERE.
Senator Markey’s resolution would call for paraprofessionals and education support staff to have:
The resolution is endorsed by National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (ALF-CIO), Latinos for Education, National Rural Education Association (NREA), NREA Coalition, Autism Society of America, Citizens for Public Schools, Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), Network for Public Education, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), First Focus on Children, National Urban League, and Arc of the United States.
“Paraprofessionals and classified school employees are the folks who make our schools and campuses run – the classroom assistants, bus drivers, administrative support staff, cafeteria workers and custodians that keep students safe, supported, and nurtured. But too many of them work second jobs, struggle to access benefits, and have limited career mobility that makes it harder for them to stay in these roles and provide our next generation with the tools they need to thrive. The Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights recognizes the important role these educators play in our schools and in our kids’ lives, and calls for fairer pay, better benefits, workplace safety and access to training that will give these jobs and the folks who do them the respect they deserve. Thanks to Senator Markey for recognizing this need and taking action,” said Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers.
“Whether it’s getting our kids to school safely, serving nutritious meals, supporting students with special needs or keeping the classrooms clean and sanitary, paraprofessionals do everything possible to ensure students reach their full potential. Despite their essential work, many lack the basic job security and benefits they deserve, such as a living wage, health insurance and retirement benefits. On behalf of AFSCME’s 1.4 million members, thousands of whom are paraprofessionals, we urge Congress to establish foundational protections for these essential workers by passing Senator Markey’s Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights,” said Lee Saunders, President of American Federation of State at County and Municipal Employees.
“Education Support Professionals strengthen our schools and communities by making sure our students are safe, healthy and ready to learn every day. Right now, they don’t get nearly the compensation, benefits or support they deserve. By passing the Paraprofessional and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights, Congress will show they recognize and appreciate the invaluable contributions these dedicated workers make every day – both inside and outside the classroom. We want to thank Senator Markey for his leadership in introducing this key legislation, and we urge Congress to act swiftly in passing it to demonstrate to our Education Support Professionals that, as a nation, we respect and value all they do for our students,” said Becky Pringle, President of National Education Association.
"Paraprofessionals and school staff are at the heart of our schools, helping students learn, grow, and meet their basic needs. And they're members of our communities: many are parents, alumni, and residents of the cities and towns they work in. But far too many paraprofessionals are forced to work multiple jobs, or rely on public assistance, just to make ends meet. One job should be enough, and it's time to ensure that our paraprofessionals are properly compensated and valued for the important work they do every day," said Beth Kontos, President of AFT Massachusetts.
“We applaud Senator Markey for standing with the paraprofessionals and education support professionals who are the heart of our classrooms, and yet are struggling to make ends meet and often working two to three jobs to support themselves. ESPs play critically important roles in our public schools in Massachusetts and nationwide, providing instruction and care to students with disabilities, assisting in early education classes, driving busses, preparing meals and so much more, and they need and deserve to be able to care for themselves and their families. Beyond being good for the ESPs themselves, schools need to be able to recruit and retain qualified support staff. This is why, in Massachusetts and beyond, ESPs need a living wage, affordable health insurance and paid family and medical leave once and for all,” said Max Page, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association.