BRIGHTON Col. Para-teachers, para-professionals, and school districts all across the country are feeling it.
“We have medically vulnerable students who need one-on-one supervision,” said Michal Clow, director of human resources for Colorado School District 27J. “We have to provide that supervision. They must be safe. Literally, they rely on those employees for their lives every day.”
School districts all across the country have had difficulty retaining workers since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Frontline Education found that 75% of urban school districts reported a shortage by 2021. Thirty-five per cent of districts reported a shortage for paraprofessionals and paraeducators.
“As things started to go online and students stopped going to the classrooms, the para-teacher role had to shift and change,” said Less Thomas, Pierce College’s director of education. “A lot of school districts didn’t know what to do with their paratroopers. They experience this turnover when their paratroopers become certified teachers. Paratroopers make around the minimum wage, or slightly more. Paratroopers think, “If I can make substantially more money simply by going to school for several more years, why shouldn’t I?”‘”
Clow says students urgently need paratroopers.
Clow stated that these are essential to many of our students as well as many of our classrooms. They take some of the load off of our teachers so that they can teach and instruct. They support a variety of important tasks every day, and some of the administrative tasks that are done in the classroom.
Clow stated that their district was down 10% and they have changed tactics to recruit.
“From a financial point of view, there is no money pool to pull from. Clow stated that we can’t generate the same income as a private company. “Our recruiting has changed — most of the time we say these are beneficial positions and it’s a stable job and you can work on your kids’ schedule. We’ve had to change our recruiting thinking because of these flexible jobs. That flexibility seems to potentially outweigh the benefits and stability.”
Shirley Dawson from Weber University stated that in an effort to address the shortage, the school established a paraeducational or paraprofessional certificate program that provides students with free tuition.
Dawson said, “At Weber State we are currently actively training seventy future or existing para-educators.” “Financial support is often the biggest stumbling block for para-educators entering the field. If we can support para-teachers by removing the barrier, the floodgates will just open, it seems to people who are interested.”
These tactics and programs are hoped to help more paratroopers return to school, where they are most needed.