Paraprofessionals who work in the Schenectady school system as hall monitors, classroom and office assistants, and special education aides are headed to mediation in an attempt to receive a “living wage.” Contract negotiations have been ongoing between the union and the school district. The union representing the paraprofessionals is an offshoot of the Schenectady Federation of Teachers.
The union requested a formal mediation following ongoing negotiations of more than a year. According to the chair of the union’s paraprofessionals unit, “We are just looking for the professionals to be recognized in a way that we feel is just. All we are looking for is what the district wants also, which is social justice, and right now our paras are underpaid, and the role has changed dramatically.”
Starting pay for paraprofessionals during the school year 2017-2018 was $13.12 per hour. Those with 20 years of experience “top out” at $20 per hour. Union leaders want starting pay to begin at $15 per hour and have steps up from there.
New York’s minimum wage is currently $15 an hour for large city employers. It is on track to reach $15 an hour for Long Island and Westchester workers by the end of 2021. The rest of the state requires a $12.50 an hour minimum wage, which is set to increase to $15 by December 2020.
According to the union president, “Very often negotiations come down to compensation and benefits. For this union, they are people that are really not making a good living wage.”