Education support professionals deserve respect and fair wages

Jul 2, 2019 by

The first educator your children see when they walk into a Minneapolis school, and the last they see in the afternoon, is likely one of the 1,600 education support professionals who are organizing for fair wages and respect for our work

Minneapolis education support professionals at a rally

Courtesy of Ma-Riah Roberson-Moody
On June 12, more than 250 educators, parents and supporters joined Minneapolis education support professionals at a rally to learn more about working conditions and to show support for a fair contract.

We aren’t teachers or administrators. We’re the education support professionals, or ESPs, who provide one-to-one services with students. We are interpreters, parent liaisons and the staff who intervene to create safe learning environments for all children. We have many other job titles, but most parents know us as the educators their kids know best.

And we’re hurting.

I never understood what it meant to live paycheck to paycheck until I started working for the Minneapolis school district. Every month, I am forced to figure out how I’m going to cover all of my bills, not including money for food. Often the only meal I get for the day is left over lunch scraps because I can’t afford to buy food for myself. It only gets worse in the summer. I am a single adult, still on my parents’ insurance and living with a roommate. If I can’t make ends meet, imagine what my colleagues with families endure.

More than 68 percent of ESPs in Minneapolis schools work a second job; 19 percent work more than two, according to a recent survey. A few ESPs working in Minneapolis Public Schools are homeless.

The health insurance offered by the school district is so expensive compared to our pay that most of us can’t afford it. Of those who do, paying the deductible for going to the doctor often means there won’t be enough money left over to pay for groceries for the week.

The district cannot hire and retain enough education support professionals to meet the needs of its students. Unlike administrators, the district pays us by the hour and we need to find other jobs during the summer. The constant staff turnover puts even more pressure on educators who stay.

We’ve had enough.

Ma-Riah Roberson-Moody
Ma-Riah Roberson-Moody

We’re working through our union, the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals Local 59, to persuade the Minneapolis School Board to improve our working conditions and compensation during the current round of contract negotiations. More members than ever have actively joined the campaign. So have many parents and members of our community.

Parents have joined us because educator support professionals are the most racially diverse group of employees in the schools. We’re the role models for many students because we’re adults, professionals and we look like them. No one wants to see their child’s role model treated with disrespect.

Other parents have joined us because they don’t want to see the unfair economic inequality that is poisoning our state reflected in their children’s schools. Cooks, bus drivers and some educators are paid $22,000 a year while the district pays its administrators six figures.

Smart policymakers are also working to strengthen our profession because ESPs are on the front lines of many policies, including those to reduce suspensions, promote early literacy and development of social-emotional learning skills in students. The Minneapolis Public Schools will not reach those goals without a stable workforce of professional ESPs.

Finally, many people who care about the quality of the education Minneapolis children receive are responding to our campaign because they’ve met some of the great educators who left our schools because they couldn’t afford to stay. Each ESP who leaves is a lost opportunity for a role model, a caring relationship or a passionate advocate for Minneapolis students.

On June 12, more than 250 educators, parents and supporters joined Minneapolis ESPs at a rally to learn more about our working conditions and to show support for a fair contract. We’re hoping more parents will take the opportunity to learn more about what’s happening in schools. If those parents come to the same conclusions as so many others have, we’re asking them to contact their school board member and ask for a change.

Minneapolis ESPs want to be the first educators Minneapolis students see when they come back to school this fall, but without a better a contract, many of our students will miss us. Those ESPs will have moved on to workplaces with better pay and more respect — but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Ma-Riah Roberson Moody is an executive board member of MFT Local 59 and an educational support professional in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

Source: Education support professionals deserve respect and fair wages | MinnPost

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.