Para Pay

12 Jul

Over on NCLBlog, there was a brief discussion on the pay of paraeducators.  It just so happens that Jane is considering trying for a position the year after this upcoming one.  She downloaded the application and the pay scale and asked me if I could figure it out.


Basically it is a level-step system, similar to what teachers have, except there is no explanation of what moves a person from one step or level to the next.  This pay scale actually covers all noncertified employees except for bus drivers and monitors who have an entirely different compensation deal.  so that would be secretaries, custodians, lunch staff and paras.


At level 1, step 1 it starts at about $6.75 and the moves up about $0.35 each level or step.  Presumably, education influences the level and time is the step axis on the matrix.  But I had to tell Jane that I was not real certain how to figure out what she might expect to make as a para.


Jane has a degree in early childhood, and is enjoying teaching at the church preschool.  However, the school offers more hours (hence more money) and more benefits.  She could get her certificate and go into teaching fairly easy once in the system if she wanted.  Being a para is a good way of figuring out if it is something a body really wants to do.


But back to the pay, it is pretty appalling.  She has a friend who has a master’s degree who was making about $8.00/hr. as a para.  So why would anyone do it? 


In Jane’s case, she likes working with the kids, likes the hours and schedule and the benefits.  She also does not like the paperwork and planning involved that teachers have to do.


Most of the people I get are mothers (like Jane) looking for another income and with similar hours and schedules as what their children have.  There is a major convenience factor in not having to find childcare for school breaks, snow days and summer.


It is also a good way to transition into becoming certified.  Whatever roadblocks there are should be lifted for moving paras through the professional pipeline and getting them certified, especially in special education.  I like the idea of paras being paid interns towards becoming full fledged teachers.  People going through traditional teacher preparation programs in special education often get hired provisionally knowing nothing about special ed, while paras may already have several years of experience.


It makes more sense now that NCLB is mandating paras having 2 years of college that something be done to enhance the para experience.  If we aren’t going to pay them more for this increased education, the least we could do is fast track them into higher paying positions.


One benefit that I don’t think many paras have taken advantage of, is that Magnolia County has been offering a series of computer courses offered as staff development leading to A+ and MS certifications.  Granted it is more time, but since the cost is zero, that is not a bad deal for acquiring some extra marketable skills.

In the case of the paras in my program, they are supposed to get trained for driving a bus, which is an entirely different skill set that is marketable.


Having said all of this, $6.75/hr is not a lot of money for someone with an associate’s degree or more.  In Georgia, people can get a Hope grant to pay for a technical degree or certificate and they will end up making a lot more coming out.  Many paras end up having to get another part-time job in order to make ends meet, especially when they are single parents which is the case for half my paras.


They really do need to be getting raises at the same time as teachers are getting theirs.  It makes sense to do so, because these folks are directly supporting teachers and delivering instruction.  Much of what we’re required to do as teachers could not be done without the support of these individuals.



7 Responses to “Para Pay”

  1. Alexander's Daddy July 16, 2006 at 8:59 am #

    I can’t believe that para’s only are paid $6.75/hr. We have private therapists for our son that get paid upto 4 times that an hour. No one can live off that salary!

  2. Nancy October 16, 2006 at 10:57 am #

    The pay here in S.D. could improve but our most troublsome area is the lack of respect from both teachers and the administration. We can not at the 7-12 level even get computers to work on in order to do our jobs. We are always last on the list. I feel that it is because we are all certified and all look good on paper an they would now like us to just be quite and leave them alone.

  3. Maggie November 22, 2006 at 9:37 am #

    I don’t know what the requirements in other states are, but in Alabama, you must have an at least an Associate Degree, 2 years of college OR pass a test. The salaries are all the same, not like teachers who are paid more for the degrees they hold plus 3 times what Paraprofessionals are paid. Also, we are paid the same as the lunchroom staff and janitors are paid more.
    It is IMPOSSIBLE to LIVE on your own with what they pay paras. To hold onto GOOD paras, things need to change…….pay needs to be on the same scale line as teachers (at least 1/2 of what teachers make, since you must have 1/2 the education and paid more for the degrees they hold).

  4. Niki August 16, 2007 at 9:21 am #

    Ok–I know this is California and it is expensive to live here. That being said, we paras have a union, and our district pays about $13/hour to start, and tops out about $18/hour after 5 years. There is no additional compensation for educational level. However, the contract seems to change often enough that the hourly rate keeps going up. My district gives medical, dental, vision and RX benefits on a sliding scale of contribution, depending on hours worked. Other districts here seem to keep paras just under the number of hours at which they would get benefits. Rotten!!
    Benefits are the name of the game, in my book. So my 29 hours of work per week, at $18/hour, plus benefits, still won’t buy me a house where we live, or even pay the rent, but the benefits are golden.

  5. Rkfd IL Para May 6, 2008 at 8:31 pm #

    I have been a para for more than 10 years and make less than $10 an hour.


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