Educational Assistants Deserve A Livable Wage
It’s a new year, and I’m excited to say Hurricane Warning continues to evolve. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be working with the dailyUV team to explore different forms of digital storytelling. This is the first of what I hope will be a series of online comic “strips”. I'm a teacher, and I've spent most of my career working alongside many talented educational assistants and support staff. Most of these folks have been women, many are young mothers. They work all day keeping our kids safe and filling gaps in the schedule. This keeps the school running smoothly and allows teachers to focus on instruction. Needless to say I was shocked to find out how low ed assistant salaries were across the Upper Valley -- in many cases comparable to flipping burgers. In addition to the low pay, many districts cap ed assistants to thirty five hours per week. This is not a salaried job, it's hourly. Which means it provides no income during the better part of June, July and August. I had a friend who was forced to get supplies from the Haven's food bank to make it through the summer. So what's the attraction to this job? In a word: Benefits. It is one of the few jobs open to a woman without an advanced degree that offers insurance and benefits to her and her dependents if she has them. The salaries and benefits we collectively decide to pay the workers in our schools has a profound impact on the character of our community. Why? Because for the most part these folks live in the communities they serve. When I hear someone advocate dividing one full-time position into two part-time positions in order to avoid having to pay for insurance, I wonder if we are thinking about the long-term effect on our town. This was actually put forward by a teacher in a staff meeting I attended many years ago. "Geez," I thought, "Do we really want two half-employed citizens without health insurance instead of one fully employed and insured person? What's better for the fabric of our town?" The bottom line is that educational assistants deserve to make a livable wage.