woman reading a book to the children
Education Support Professionals are working to lift their pay to achieve a living wage as defined by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Living Wage Calculator, which shows workers require a minimum of $45,000 to get by.; photo by Yan Krukau on Pexels.com

MA public school support staff fight for a living wage

Lawmakers in Massachusetts are considering legislation to ensure Education Support Professionals in public schools earn a living wage.

ESP’s do it all – teach, help students with special needs, clean classrooms and more. The bill would set a statewide salary of $45,000 for these workers.

Former Massachusetts ESP of the Year Joni Cederholm of Weymouth said it would change thousands of lives. After more than 25 years working, she brings home just $300 a week.

“We get poverty pay. We are in the poverty line,” said Cederholm. “We’re not even making enough money to live in our own communities where our own children go.”

Cederholm said ESPs are taking on larger roles in students’ social-emotional and academic learning, as well as discipline. She added too often, low pay is forcing educators to leave the profession and the students they care for.

Support staff across the Commonwealth have created a “Bill of Rights” to help them organize for better pay and benefits.

Organizers say ESPs in some districts often receive $0 paychecks due to the high cost of health insurance, while others take on additional jobs or visit food banks to survive.

Cederholm said an increase in pay is the only way to retain quality educators and improve public schools.

“One job should be enough,” said Cederholm. “We shouldn’t have to work three jobs and go to work exhausted in order to get ready for the next day to do two more jobs to live in our communities.”

U.S Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., has also introduced legislation to provide living wages and benefits for ESPs, bus drivers, custodial workers, and others who help keep schools running.

Cederholm said she hopes parents will get a better understanding of the value these people bring to their child’s learning experience – and support their campaign for better pay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Male and female students of mixed ethnicity in a high school library joking around. One female student has a studded collar around her neck/
Previous Story

Mass. families in limbo as college financial-aid awards delayed

A waiter carries a tray of entrées and beverages to a table in a busy pub.
Next Story

Downtown Pittsfield whets it’s appetite for Restaurant Week

Latest from Education