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.