SPRINGFIELD – The following is attributable to Tuscola Education Support Professional Association (TESPA) spokesperson Rachel Haste regarding the decision to enter federal mediation in the hopes of reaching a fair contract with the Tuscola Community Unit School District 301 Board of Education (BOE).
“We’re asking to be fairly compensated for the good, hard work we do every day. We know the district has the funds to meet this request without raising taxes. It’s the right thing to do for our schools and our students. We are asking for wages that make our paraprofessional positions competitive with nearby districts. In the last two years, we’ve lost more than 40 percent of our paras, many to neighboring districts and to businesses on Route 36, like McDonalds, Love’s and Old Navy that pay more. Due to the high turnover rate, new paraprofessionals do not have the training and experience to successfully handle education support and behavioral situations. This means our students lose. Still the board is proposing to not pay employees for each year of experience they gain in the district, which will only mean we lose more talented paraprofessionals to other districts and professions. The administration needs to value our hardworking staff by being committed to not only attracting highly-skilled, motivated people to the profession, but also by offering fair wages to seasoned professionals. We are hopeful working with a federal mediator will help the administration see the value of our hardworking staff and help them commit to both attracting and retaining talented paraprofessionals to work with our students.”
TESPA represents paraprofessionals working in District 301. Currently there are 20 in the TESPA bargaining unit. Paraprofessionals work with the most vulnerable students in our schools and help teachers, assisting students with IEPs, behavioral challenges and those with autism and other disabilities. Paraprofessionals also supervise the homework club, which helps students who are failing, or at risk of failing, classes.
TESPA has been negotiating with the BOE since Feb. 10. The next bargaining session is set for Oct. 11.
At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.