Every school day, the responsibility for making our schools healthier, safer and better places to learn falls just as heavily on public school instructional assistants as it does on public school teachers and public school administrators.
Regardless of whether they are Special Education IAs (providing vital services to one, two, three, four or more special education students) or Traditional IAs (helping teachers prepare and run classrooms so that all the students have the opportunity to learn), IAs are truly on the front line of enhancing educational opportunities for our children.
It is fair to say that the single most important step we could take to improve educational outcomes is to dramatically increase the number of trained and experienced IAs in our schools, especially where students need extra help, due to poverty, language barriers and special education needs.
And when we talk about improving public education, and the very real and increasing threat that is coming from the corporate “education reform” types, who want to layoff teachers, ban or reduce collective bargaining rights, take-over public schools and transfer the care and control of our public schools to various third parties…let’s not forget that many districts do not fund enough IA positions and every district fails to fairly compensate IAs for the incredible work they do.
In Connecticut, public school instructional assistants, (many of who have college degrees), are paid $11 to $14 per hour, for 6.5 hours of work a day, for 186 school days a year. Add in the 8 paid holidays and subtract out their health insurance premium co-pay and the average IA salary earns in the range of about $10,800 to $13,500 a year… a rate of pay that places them well below the poverty level.
A core member of the education team, caring for our children, helping them to learn, backing up our teachers and we pay them one-third to a one-half as much as we pay school bus drivers and far less than the pay any other education related employee..
As parents and public school advocates join teachers and their unions in this historic battle to ensure our public schools are run for the benefit of the public and not corporate America, we should be just as loud and clear that our schools need far more IAs and that IAs deserve far better pay.
Next time you talk about the real difference between creating better schools and “education reform” be sure to add the part that schools need more IAs and IAs need better pay.
Footnote: Many urban public schools have actually been reducing the number of instructional assistants. For example, Paul Vallas and the illegal Board of Education in Bridgeport have decided to stop hiring IAs and remove them from the schools completely through the use of attrition.