When we fight, we win!! And that is just what Education Support Professionals (ESPs) from around Colorado did at the bargaining table this year! From substantial increases in hourly pay rates to adding security guards and preschool staff to bargaining units, ESPs flexed their collective muscle to achieve these gains.
Boulder Valley Paraeducators Association negotiated a $15 minimum hourly rate, a 16.9% increase over the previous minimum, along with additional safety protocols and a district commitment to begin hiring resource paraeducators for the first time in 10 years.
ESPs in Westminster continue to be paid the highest in the state, with a 2-year financial settlement that grants steps plus 3% each year, meaning that bus drivers and special needs paraeducators will top out at over $33 an hour. ESP and certified staff benefit from the wall-to-wall structure of the Westminster Education Association.
Pueblo County Education Association, a wall-to-wall local that includes ESPs, completely restructured their ESP salary schedule. “All ESP received a very good increase and are getting paid extra for their educational hours and degrees,” said Donna Raught, Spanish Peaks UniServ director. Their new base pay is based on the positions they hold and allows them to move on the schedule with steps and longevity.
Pueblo Education Support Professionals Association, the Pueblo School District 60 local that represents clerical and early childhood educators, was able to bargain security guards into their Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). All employees are getting a 5.2% increase this year and a 4.8% increase for the 2022-2023 school year. There are 14 security guards and 13 have already joined PESPA.
The Association of Custodial and Maintenance Employees – Pueblo D60 bargained a step equal to 2.75% and a 3% COLA for a 5.75% increase for 2021-2022; and for 2022-2023 they will be getting a step and the equivalent of a 4.8% increase.
Pueblo Paraprofessional Education Association also bargained a step equal to 2.5% and a 3% COLA for the 2021-2022 school year.
The Trinidad Education Association that represents ESP staff are still in negotiation with the district, but they have agreed on compensation, Raught reports. The ESP are getting a new schedule that has a great base pay for each category of employee along with a step increase, Raught said. Their increases range from $700 on up to $5000, depending on the position. They also are getting longevity bonuses for years of service. ESPs were able to fight to keep their agreement and union when the board of education challenged the agreement. The employees organized and had support from the community and other labor unions to keep their agreements.
The Jeffco Education Support Professionals Association (JESPA) welcomed a new school year with no employee making less than $15/hour, preschool workers enjoying union protection under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and increased access to information about their rights as workers.
JESPA won a $15 minimum wage for all bargaining unit employees, an increase of $2.50/hour for the starting wage for the lowest paid workers (parapros, food service), with all other job categories increasing all cells by $0.75/hour. Combined with winning two steps, the lowest paid JESPA workers will see $3.70 more per hour, which is a 30% increase to their hourly wages.
The new Preschool Article for the JESPA CBA includes contract language related to classroom supplies, professional development specific to preschool, pay for required PD, better communication to all ESP job titles from the Early Learning Office, and a collaborative committee made up of preschool teachers from JESPA and JCEA with administration. The agreement includes compensation of a new schedule starting at $15 per hour, 2 step increases and COLA of $0.75 per hour.
ESPs in the East Grand County Education Association won a 16% pay increase for ESPs, with increases ranging from $2.20/hour to as much as $4.85/hour. The lowest minimum hourly rate is now $15.60/hour.
As we begin a new school year, ESPs continue to power up and forge ahead at the bargaining table and beyond, supporting students, staff, schools and public education!
Jennifer Latham is a paraeducator and member of the Durango ESPA and the CEA.