Lowest paid employees hit with financial double whammy just before holiday break

Tuscola paraprofessionals plan to speak at board of education meeting

TUSCOLA – The Tuscola Community Unit School District 301 Board of Education (BOE) rescinded the district’s contribution to the Tuscola Education Support Professional Association’s (TESPA) health savings account (HSA) contributions and also abruptly canceled a long-standing, annual holiday bonus. The administration’s decisions are effectively canceling more than $1,000 in benefits at the costliest time of year.

TESPA plans to challenge the district’s behavior through an unfair labor practice and also attend the District 301 BOE meeting this evening. TESPA members plan to wear #redfored and speak about the financial hardships the district is causing by removing these two financial benefits.

“This decision is heartless. I can’t help but to think about the board as the Grinch stealing Christmas. Our paras are already struggling to make ends meet, most of us make less than $17 an hour and several of us have to work an additional job just to make sure our family has food on the table. Couple that with rising inflation and the holidays and canceling our holiday bonus along with our health savings account contribution is a one-two punch that is going to be nearly impossible to overcome,” TESPA spokesperson Rachel Haste said. “I really can’t understand it. We know the district can afford to do this for us. It is an exceptionally small portion of the overall budget, but it has a huge impact on our lives.”

The board recently began providing the health savings account contributions to TESPA after switching insurance carriers. The district chose to change health insurance carriers, which means they are saving $6,000 per employee. However, the cost of the deductible, which the employee pays, is now $892 more. Even with the HSA contributions, the district is still saving tens of thousands of dollars annually. The district is also receiving tax increment financing (TIF) funds that will offset the cost.

TESPA represents 21 paraprofessionals in District 301. Paraprofessionals work with the most vulnerable students in the Tuscola schools and help teachers, assisting students with individualized education programs (IEPs), behavioral challenges and those with autism and other disabilities. Paraprofessionals essentially make it possible for any child, no matter if they have a physical, mental or behavioral issue, to attend public school.

“It’s just so disheartening it’s come to this, and during the holidays. This is the time of year when many choose to go above and beyond to help those who are in need. We can’t help but to take this personally. To do something like this now is really unconscionable. It goes against everything we teach our students about kindness, generosity and the spirit of the holidays,” Haste said.

TESPA members plan to wear red and speak at tonight’s board meeting, which will be held Mon., Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. at East Prairie Middle School (409 S Prairie St, Tuscola).


The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest union. IEA represents Pre K-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.

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