Should paraprofessionals have the same benefits as teachers?
A paraprofessional is an aide that assists teachers with the students in the class that have an IEP, 504, or overall special need.
If such a person is doing the same planning, marking and meeting/parents evening commitments as well as assisting in the delivery of the lesson then yes, I think paraprofessionals should have the same benefits as teachers.
However, if they are merely following a brief set by a teacher, then no.
Furthermore, teachers are held responsiblel for the progress or otherwise of their pupils. This level of culpability is rewarded through their pay structure. If paraprofessionals are held to equal account for failing students then, again, they deserve the same benefits as teachers.
Paraprofessionals make much less than a teacher's salary. They partake in the lesson planning sometimes, but mostly this is a teacher's job. A paraprofessional often interacts with parents, helps the student with their work, lifts them in and out of their wheelchair if needed, toilets them/changes diapers if need be, and in many instances, feed them. The salary difference between teacher and paraprofessional differs, but is usually at least $20,000 less and this year our district took away another $4,000 from their salaries and their benefits. Also, under debate is if para's should be able to write referrals on students. A referral is a report on a student for misbehavior. Keeping in mind a lot of the special needs students a para works with are those with severe behavioral disorders, I feel it is essential Para's be allowed to write these such reports.
If we are talking about health benefits, personal and medical days off, then I think paras should have access to similar benefits as all full time employees. However, there are bound to be some differences, since in most school districts paras are under no obligation to attend after school faculty meetings, have a degree, communicate with parents, upkeep a current certification, report standard assessments scores of their students for the world to see, or to come in during days planned for professional development and early releases, etc. The expectations set for the paraprofessionals are no where near as high as those set for the teachers. Paras don't have to plan, execute, assess, and report on the lessons for 25 students in multiple subjects. They don't have to grade over 100 papers a week, and while para's input is valuable, it is the teacher that will come under fire if IEP is not followed, the lessons are deemed inappropriate, or if parents can't get their questions answered. I have done both jobs in the past, and I had no issues with the salary difference, to be quite honest.
If we are talking about being able to discipline a child according to the policies set by the school - then I believe any adult working in the building should be able to report an incident that occurred on their watch, be it a teacher, or a nurse, or a para, or a secretary.
In a case of a paraprofessional being hired to assist a student with basic needs (feeding, bathroom assistance, etc.), I think it makes more sense to compare such a job to the pay scale of a nurse. I know nothing about entry level salaries for nurses, so I guess I can't comment on this particular situation.
I understand that it is painful to see your salary go down, but it is happening to teachers as well. For many districts it is a question of cutting down positions vs. cutting down salaries and benefits. The contracts that are being renewed these days often reflect the difficult financial times that many are experiencing. I'm sorry to hear that the changes are so drastic in your district.
I taught for 30+ years. I have seen some paraprofessionals who are better teachers than the certified teacher. States state clearly the job description for paraprofessionals. Many paraprofessionals are writing lesson plans, adapting tests for special needs students, assigning grades, and teaching small groups of children. They are not to be doing those duties, but many teachers are more than happy to let them. However, paras do not have to attend a multitude of meetings, hold parent conferences, take classes to keep their certificates valid, and I do believe institute days are not a required duty for paras in some districts. I was a paraprofessional for a while, and the job load is much, much lighter than that of a classroom teacher. I do not believe the jobs are equal, and benefits should not be the same.
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