Sen. Markey Introduces Resolution Calling for Livable Wages, Benefits for School Workers

Sen. Edward J. Markey takes a selfie at Haverhill High School. (WHAV News photograph.)

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Educational support professionals currently negotiating a new contract with Haverhill Public Schools appear to have fresh backing from the state’s two senators.

Sen. Edward J. Markey, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has put forward the Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights. It’s a resolution that calls for living wages, good benefits and fair working conditions for the paraeducators, classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodial workers and others.

“For too long, we have asked paraprofessionals and education support staff to do too much with too little,” Markey said in a statement. “We have asked them to educate, feed, transport and support students in their path to grow, learn and thrive—all without the pay, benefits and job security they deserve. My Paraprofessionals and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights is a call for action to provide these workers with the dignity, respect and recognition that they have long deserved. Well-paid, well-treated, union staff make stronger schools and stronger communities.”

Haverhill Education Association President Barry Davis told WHAV he welcomes the resolution and hopes it sets an example locally.

“It shows our elected at a national level are invested in the fight that the employees are at the state and municipality level,” he said.

Haverhill educational support professionals have met 13 times with School Committee negotiators since April to secure a contract for the period that began July 1. School Committee members Richard J. Rosa and Gail M. Sullivan are expected to meet with their counterparts at the Haverhill Education Association on Monday, Nov. 27.

Markey’s resolution calls for paraprofessionals and education support staff to have livable, competitive wages, and access to benefits, including health care and paid leave; supplies, resources and training to do their jobs; a meaningful voice in workplace policies and the right to negotiate for better working conditions; the dignity of safe, healthy and adequate staffed workplaces; and year-round job security and opportunities for growth.

The resolution is co-sponsored by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Markey’s office said 331,000 school staff have left their jobs since the pandemic. A 2022 survey found that one in five paraprofessionals recently visited a food pantry, while 25% said they could not afford to live in the communities where they worked. Yet, families rely on paraeducators as often the only heritage language speakers in schools; on bus drivers to safely transport their children; on food service workers to provide healthy meals; and on instruction assistants to ensure all students access high quality education.

Max Page, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association said, in part, “Beyond being good for the ESPs themselves, schools need to be able to recruit and retain qualified support staff. This is why, in Massachusetts and beyond, ESPs need a living wage, affordable health insurance and paid family and medical leave once and for all.”

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