Assistant teachers in Durham asking for higher pay Thursday

27 January 2022

Workers with a crucial role in the classroom will take their demands for higher pay straight to the Durham School Board of Education Thursday night.

Instructional assistants, also known as assistant teachers or IAs, have been pushing for more equitable pay within the district over the past several months.

“Some of the challenges we are facing — even though we are assigned to certain classrooms, we are being pulled to go to other classrooms because we are in need of subs within the whole district,” said Sunny Hiraldo, an IA and president of the Durham Instructional Assistant Association.

IAs have taken on many roles during the pandemic.

“When teachers call out or when they’re sick or when something happens, it’s mostly the IAs who are getting pulled to go cover their classes. So they’re being taken out of their regular classes to help to go sub for other classes,” added Hiraldo.

Many are also balancing other jobs on the side to make ends meet.

In the last pay bump, Durham Public Schools raised the pay for classified staff to a starting wage of $15 an hour. Hiraldo is concerned, saying that raise doesn’t help veteran IAs or other long-term employees, like custodians and cafeteria workers.

The Durham Instructional Assistant Association is proposing classified staff, including IAs, start at a rate of $17 per hour and, over the next three to four years, have the starting rate bumped up to $22 an hour.

Emily Walkenhorst, WRAL’s education reporter, obtained data from other districts to compare.

The Wake County Public School System raised the minimum starting wage to at least $17 per hour for IAs in December. Before that, WCPSS paid the bare minimum, just more than $11 per hour, for IAs just starting out.

In Johnston County, the school board recently raised the minimum wage to $15.

In Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, IAs earn the state wage, plus a supplement based on their years of experience. Before the new budget was passed this fall, that meant instructional assistants earned as little as $11.81 starting out and more than $12 once they gained experience.

The state raised minimums for all school employees to $13 per hour this fall and plans to raise the minimum to $15 per hour next fall.

WCPSS has seen some improvement in their turnover among instructional assistants as wage increases have been approved. The vacancy rate has improved from 11% in November to 9% earlier this month.

“We have people who are saying that they are going to leave and make more money in other districts. They can make more money at Amazon or even at the grocery stores,” said Hiraldo.

She said the pay adjustments would help the quality of life for many employees, but it will also make them feel valued.

“A lot of us do feel like, you know, the teachers do everything in front. So everybody sees them teaching, but they forget the ones behind the scenes. This is a great district to work in. I know everybody’s facing a lot of challenges, but we just want everything to be fair across the board,” she added.

Durham Public Schools spokesperson Chip Sudderth told WRAL News it is planning to move forward with a salary review of all classified (non-teaching) staff, including IAs, in the coming months. Meanwhile, many IAs plan to raise attention to the matter in Thursday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting.

This post was originally published on this site

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