Higher wages. That's what Rockford school district's paraprofessionals are after. They made that loud and clear at Tuesday's Board of Education Meeting.
Dozens of support staff members, like teacher's aides, bus drivers and school library employees say they love their jobs, but they're broke. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, represents most of these school district employees. Union members say the average paraprofessional, who is primarily a teacher's aide, is making less than $10 an hour and some are living below the poverty line. They haven't had raises in five years. Paraprofessionals have been negotiating with District #205 administrators for about seven months. They say sticking points are health insurance and wages.
"I know that after 34 years working for this district, a paraprofessional friend of mine made last year less than $15,000 and with all due respect, some second-year administrators had raises higher than that recently." -says one union supporter.
Administrators say they're looking for creative solutions.
"What we really have is a situation where we have people who do outstanding work and we really need to figure out ways we can provide a total compensation program that rewards them for the work that they do that's within a budget for the district compared to all the other groups that we have to work out contracts with." -says Superintendent Dr. Robert Willis.
Both parties meet at the bargaining table again April 30th.
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