Home Press Release ESP Bill of Rights gets first hearing

Bill to raise hourly school workers’ wages to $25 an hour, bolster their health care gets first hearing

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ST. PAUL, Minnesota. March 1, 2023 – Educators testified Wednesday on the importance of the Education Support Professional (ESP) Bill of Rights, a flagship priority of Education Minnesota’s legislative agenda. Authored by Rep. Brad Tabke of Shakopee, HF 1348/SF 1318 was presented in the House Education Policy committee this morning.

ESPs include hourly school staff; paraprofessionals, bus drivers, food service workers, clerical workers, and more. Many ESPs currently make less than a living wage and lack access to affordable health care and insurance.

The proposal:
– Increases the minimum starting salary of hourly school workers to $25 an hour.
– Guarantees two days of paid training for all support personnel who work with students.
– Gives special education staff built-in due process time to manage their students’ individual plans.
– Expands access and increases affordability of hourly school workers’ health care, including covering them between school years.
– Sustains pay during e-learning days.

Jessica Gleason, an Education Minnesota member and paraprofessional in Robbinsdale, testified before the committee.

“You’ve probably met more of these ESPs than you realize,” she said. “Because they are your cashiers in the retail stores where you shop, they are behind the service desks at community facilities in your town. They are working 18-hour days to make ends’ meet, picking up Friday night server shifts after finishing their work day at school, just to wake up on Saturday morning to work another 10-hour shift when they should be decompressing. How long will they stay?”

“I am seeing an historically high number of open ESP positions in the district and the toll it puts on those that choose to stay. ESPs that are tackling a double/triple workload will continue to leave. ESPs that are working second and third jobs to survive will continue to leave. The issues in recruitment and retention due to low wages and increased insurance costs will continue to trickle down to the quality of our students’ education and that’s why you need to act now.”

Abby Schuft, an administrative assistant at Westwood Elementary in Saint Cloud and a member of SEIU Local 284, spoke out about why this bill is so important for school staff and the students they serve.

“When I started with the district in 2014 our health insurance rates were cost effective and something that I was able to cover for my family,” she said. “After years of huge rate increases, my husband and I decided to discontinue the family coverage and only take single coverage medical insurance. Since October 2017 my husband has not had health insurance. We have looked into MNsure every year as an option, but this so-called low-cost health insurance isn’t affordable for us. I’m not alone, many of my coworkers in Saint Cloud and hourly workers across the state are in a similar position where their entire check would be eaten up by the cost of health insurance, so they opt not to take it. I should not have to rely on the state of Minnesota to cover the medical costs for my children when my husband and I both work. This not only makes me sad to not be able to provide this for my family, it makes me mad and embarrassed. That’s why I’m here today. We’ve got a supportive school board and a strong union and it’s not enough. We need the ESP Bill of Rights to ensure that we can provide for our families.”

The bill was approved on a voice vote and sent to its next stop, the House Education Finance Committee.

About Education Minnesota
Education Minnesota is the voice for professional educators and students. Education Minnesota’s members include teachers and education support professionals in Minnesota’s public school districts, faculty members at Minnesota’s community and technical colleges and University of Minnesota campuses in Duluth and Crookston, retired educators and student teachers. Education Minnesota is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO.

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