Tuscola Education Support Staff, Community Members Plan to Wear Red, Attend Board Meeting to Push for a Fair Contract

TUSCOLA – The Tuscola Education Support Professional Association (TESPA) and community members plan to attend the Tuscola Community Unit School District 301 Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Mon., Oct. 24.   The TESPA paraprofessionals plan to address the board and ask them to come to an agreement on a fair contract.

Currently, the BOE’s and TESPA’s contract proposals are just 14 cents an hour apart.

“We have paras in the district that are making less than $15 an hour who have worked for the district for 15 years. Before this year, we had paras who’ve been with the district for 5 years making only $12 an hour. We can’t survive on these wages,” TESPA spokesperson Rachel Haste said. “Most TESPA members have a second job and many have to apply for government assistance and food stamps just so they can pay the bills and put food on the table.”

TESPA represents 21 paraprofessionals in District 301. Paraprofessionals work with the most vulnerable students in our schools and help teachers, assisting students with individualized education programs (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.

“It’s not just that our wages are falling behind the starting pay for places like Old Navy, Love’s and other businesses on Route 36. The state of Illinois is also in the middle of a massive educational support staff shortage, and Tuscola currently has multiple unfilled paraprofessional positions,” Haste said. “Due to the approximately 40 percent turnover rate, new paraprofessionals do not have the training and experience to successfully handle educational support and behavioral situations, which means our students suffer. We need to do better, and we can start by paying paraprofessionals fair wages that compensate them for their ability and their years of experience. We know the district has the funds to meet this request. It’s the right thing to do for our schools and our students.”

TESPA members plan to wear red and speak about the need for a fair contract at the next board meeting, which will be held Mon., Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. at East Prairie Middle School (409 S. Prairie St., Tuscola). Community members will also be in attendance and plan to speak, as well.

TESPA has been negotiating with the BOE since Feb. 10. The next bargaining session is set for Nov. 2.


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.

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