An article in NEA Today describes little-known national scandal. And a local one.
Had Marianne Murray taken an entry-level job at a fast food restaurant instead of with West Aurora School District 129 in Illinois, she might be earning a living wage by now.
“At McDonald’s, I might have gone into management,” says Murray, an office assistant to the principal at West Aurora High School. “By now, who knows where I’d be.”
Murray’s 33-year marriage ended last year, leaving her with only one paycheck to cover expenses for her and her dog, Ziti. Her two adult children live on their own. Still, after 20 years with the district she is struggling to make ends meet.
“After putting in that many years, I should be able to pay my way,” says Murray, who started as a substitute office worker in 1991 before becoming a permanent office professional in 1993. “If I could start over, I might look at opportunities in the corporate world.”
For paraprofessionals and other non-certified staff in my old district, Park Ridge District 64, the situation is not much different.
The paraprofessionals who work with teachers in classrooms are members of the IEA. Their affiliate is the Park Ridge Teacher Assistant’s Association (PRTAA).
While the teacher’s contract was settled soon after the start of the school year, the unionized paraprofessionals were forced to bargain for most of the year before the board agreed to a 2% raise. The newly elected school board president, Anthony Borrelli, ran for the school board several years ago on a platform that claimed district employees were overpaid. He was joined this year after the contracts were settled by the mad Tweeter, Dr. Dathan Paterno.
But all the members of the board played a role in jerking non-certified school employees around – both unionized and non-unionized – for nearly the entire school year.
Non-certified staff are paid an hourly wage. When the contract was finally agreed to by the board, paraprofessionals received a 2% raise, the exact percentage that members of the teachers’ union had bargained eight months earlier.
This past year a first-year unionized paraprofessional was paid $14.25 per hour.
A paraprofessional with 20 years in the district was paid $23.71 per hour.
The primary responsibility of paraprofessionals in District 64 is to work with students who have Special Needs and other learning disabilities.
I know the parents and many members of the Park Ridge community. They are good folks.
I don’t think they know that many of the the people who take care of the neediest of their children do not earn a living wage.
Superintendent Phil Bender will make over $200,000 this coming year.
The salaries of secretaries and nurses are not published on the district’s website because they are too low to make publishing them a legal requirement.
In Illinois, those who are interested can contact Dave.Rathke@ieanea. He is an organizer for the IEA Living Wage Task Force.