Paraeducators in Cedar Rapids deserve a living wage

A classroom at Madison Elementary School in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Cedar Rapids schools have openings for dozens of paraeducators. It’s no wonder – it’s hard work, often with students and classrooms that need a lot of help, and the starting salary is just $12.28 in the school district. community of Cedar Rapids.

We are therefore happy to see that the remuneration of paraeducators will increase considerably next month. The current rate for workers will increase to $15.50 per hour or 3%, whichever is greater. The starting rate for paraeducators will drop from $12.28 per hour to $15.

The cost of the salary increase totals nearly $470.00 for the remainder of the current school year. That’s a significant sum in an era of lowballing on the part of the Iowa Legislature when it comes to education funding.

The immediate motivation for the wage hike is to address the continued labor shortage in the region, but it is good policy in itself. It’s worth it because paraeducators are essential workers who deserve to be paid a living wage no matter the impact on the job situation.

Underscoring the urgency of the labor shortage, the increase was established outside of the usual bargaining process through negotiations between the school district and the Organization of Cedar Rapids Teachers’ Associations. Paraeducators have long called for adequate compensation.

“While we have been advocating for higher wages for years, we are frustrated that it took a (labour) crisis to move the needle,” said union member Candy Clark. associate teachers, to Grace King of The Gazette in an email.

The new rate is barely the salary needed to meet the basic needs of a Linn County family with two children and two working parents, according to figures from Common Good Iowa. 2019 Cost of Living in Iowa Report. The outgoing starting salary isn’t quite enough to meet the basic needs of a childless individual, according to Common Good Iowa.

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Michael A. Bynum