Posted In: Education Support Professionals, Educator Voices, Massachusetts, Uncategorized

A Special Education Worker Talks About Empty Paychecks, Organizing

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By Steve Lemken

In a country where jobs are at a premium, having one in a public school that allows you to buy into a medical benefit package is a pretty good deal, right? Sure, if you overlook that paying for the benefits and taxes on the salary may leave you with a net of zero take home pay.

It’s an all-too-common story and it’s the one facing Kathy Meltsakos, a special education paraprofessional working in northeast Massachusetts, hard by the Atlantic. She lives on the same street she grew up on and has worked the schools she attended years ago, bringing a deep knowledge of the generations of people living in and around her town into that work.

Education support professionals like Meltsakos and the rest of America’s workers are doing their best to weather today’s economy. But consider the numbers.

Initially earning $13.74 for a 35-hour week with the Pentucket schools, Meltsakos paid 20 percent of her insurance, which was manageable, and she did that for 10 years until laid off in June 2010. While looking for work she received unemployment benefits. She was later rehired by another district at a lower pay rate, with five less hours, and with a higher contribution for her healthcare.

“I was placed at the bottom of the scale at $10.74 an hour for a 30-hour week. After taxes, I paid 60 percent of my medical insurance. My pay stubs from February to June 24 (the end of the school year) show no net take home pay since February. Oh – and the insurance rates went up in May.”

By April she was frustrated with no take home pay and knew she had to get a second job. “My husband is doing everything he can but we have kids in college and of course the regular bills to pay. I tried a pizza shop, then found work with a discount store, twenty hours a week during school, and a few more now that school is out. They pay a little more per hour but no benefits.” For the summer she landed a job with special ed kids for 20 hours a week at $14 an hour.

“I’m not the only ESP worker in the position of working two or three jobs to try to make ends meet,” Meltsakos said. “We are not looking for a free ride. But we have to question a system that forces workers in any profession to stitch together several pay streams to make ends meet. It can get debilitating. I check my life at the school door and am upbeat and positive because some days, I’m the only happy face those kids see. What is that worth to society?”

Meltsakos is not shy discussing economic facts, having been a local Massachusetts Teacher Association leader for 11 years. She served on her local bargaining team three times and currently serves as an MTA board member representing ESPs and teachers at the state level. She is also a graduate of the 2011 NEA ESP Leaders for Tomorrow program.

These days she works with students in the lower grades. She has worked with high school age students with special needs and would go back to them if a position opened in her district.

“This work is my career,” she says with pride.  “I know what I’m doing and am good at what I do. Don’t get me wrong, I learn every day.” When asked about the economics of the job, she doesn’t beat around the bush. “Yes. It should pay better. We have a ways to go on that score. A lot of educating and organizing and bargaining is going to have to get done before any fair salary changes happen.”

Meltsakos has come to the conclusion that she, and ESPs and other education employees, must talk more with neighbors, lawmakers and others about the economics of work and home, living wages and what public school workers do at work.

“My thinking is that we need to speak more about family, community and business priorities, the work that we do and its worth to society. I think our neighbors should know what we are getting paid to educate and care for their children. I think they should know just about every penny gets plowed back into the community in the form of taxes, house payments and rent, buying food and clothes and all the rest. Just like the rest of the community. I want to see all of us succeed.”

Warming to the subject on her mind, Meltsakos said, “We’re taught from an early age not to talk a whole lot about earnings and comparing our salaries. It’s not ‘polite’. Well, we’ve had about thirty years of being polite about work and paychecks and look where that has got us.”

Meltsakos admits, “These are big issues. They can get complicated. But putting these kinds of conversations off and keeping our noses to the grindstone isn’t getting us out of this hole our state and our country finds itself in.”

“I think we have to start talking to a lot more people. Educating. Organizing. It won’t be easy, but it is better than doing the same thing over and over and getting the same result. Let’s start talking. Then we can make plans and take action.” (You can do just that by signing up to volunteer in the 2011 and 2012 campaigns for public education at EducationVotes.org.)

Meanwhile, Meltsakos will return to that job in September with a 55-cent an hour increase – and an increase in the cost of her medical benefits.

Reader Comments

  1. Margaret Goodwin

    I have never commented on other readers’ comments in any forum, but I am appalled at the fact that people seem to be missing the point of this article.

    It is not about the high cost of health care.

    It is not about teacher unions or ESP unions, and the cost of union dues.

    It IS about the fact that a person being trusted to implement the curriculum planning for, often, some the students who are struggling the most is paid little more than a person flipping burgers!!!! So little in fact that health care costs are the entirety of her paycheck. So little that many ESPs, IAs and paraprofessionals qualify for free lunch for their own children and/or food stamps. I was a special ed teacher for almost 36 years prior to my retirement and worked with a variety of paraprofessional, who were often responsible for running my classroom while I met with parents or did other professional duties. I have had really poor ones and one, in particular who what truly outstanding. They are a vital part of teaching, providing the lessons planned by the teachers in small groups of children who need extra help. Supporting students with behavior or learning problems. They do not simply run copies and file papers. They are the teacher’s right hand and I, for one, could not have provided the depth of services I did to the varied students on my caseload without them.

    Teacher salaries are not competitive in the larger workplace in most areas, and we have a college education , and most of us have at least master’s degrees. Paraprofessionals, who are REQUIRED by No Child Left Behind, to have a certain amount of college, are paid even more poorly for the important job they do.

    Until education is valued by society as a whole as something more than babysitting, these abuses will continue. My question to all the naysayers who have posted is this: Who taught you to read and to write your answers?

    Reply
  2. Jim

    This same thing has been going on with private companies for years, but employees don’t have a platform (NEA). Until politians address the real problem (tort reform) health care costs will continue to rise no matter who pays the bill.

    Reply
    • Mike

      There are many contributors to rising health costs. It is too simplistic to say that tort reform is the only solution. Corporations and conservatives have tried to focus on so-called frivolous lawsuits as the reason for rising costs, and have manipulated information to create the impression that most lawsuits are unjustified. For example, the infamous McDonald’s “hot coffee scalding” suit has been sited repeatedly to justify tort reform. What isn’t always reported is that McDonald’s had roughly 700 complaints from consumers that the temperature of their coffee had injured people prior to the suit. McDonalds had failed to respond to these injuries, and this formed part of the decision to make an award to the plaintiff. Also, there are upwards of 90,000 accidental deaths in hospitals each year in the U.S. Those are people who went to the hospital for treatment of an illness, and died due to medication errors and other mistakes by healthcare staff. Without recourse to legal action, consumers have little protection against corporate efforts to increase profits at the expense of people. For example, managed care companies take a large slice out of the total healthcare budget. While they might contribute to some degree to slowing the rise in health costs, their pressure on providers to cut expenses lowers the number of nurses and other qualified staff to serve consumers. This increases the risk of mistakes, death, and injury as staff is stretched further to cover the same amount of caregiving. Don’t be fooled by the simplistic answer that Americans are spoiled and selfish and will sue at the drop of a hat. Good propaganda for profit seekers; poor policy for the rest of us.

      Reply
      • Tom

        Whoa! Mike! “90,000 accidental deaths in hospitals each year… due to medication errors and other mistakes”? This is slightly off-topic, but that’s more than the amount of people (in whole) that are killed by guns!

        I see your point, but what is the answer? If I make $2,000 per month and I’m offered an insurance plan that will cost me $850 per month, I will not have insurance. The already prohibitive cost of health insurance makes it more likely that less people will be insured, and those that are insured will have their rates go up… and for what? To have a better chance of being killed in a hospital than by a gunshot wound?

        What I don’t understand about this story is how… and more importantly “why” would anybody work for five months without any take-home pay, at all? I can understand “loving your job”, but to volunteer your time in exchange for a little insurance… I cannot understand that, at all.

        Reply
  3. Scott

    She’s getting compensated for her job through benefits. What’s the issue here? Maybe it’s about time that the government gets out of the business of paying for healthcare and people take some personal resposibility.

    Reply
    • Julie Gantz

      Obviously Scott Walker here has no clue, just like he doesn’t in Wisconsin. We cannot make a living, contribute to a healthy economy AND pay for health care with what we are paid. Raise our salaries accordingly and we’ll be glad to pay our insurance. Until then, what would you suggest this poor woman do to eat???

      Reply
    • Cathy

      I am always amazed when people do not understand the need for health insurance in order to survive. I am further amazed that someone would believe a net pay of $0.00 is acceptable. We have passed laws against indentured servants, but we are ignoring those laws in cases like this. When the cost of paying for health insurance is equal to or greater than the worker’s income, we, as Americans, should be outraged. I’m glad Scott is not in Kathy’s position, but his lack of empathy and callous attitude displays a personal attack – on himself.

      Reply
    • Mike

      The mantra of “personal responsibility” has become a catchphrase among conservatives. The implication is that public servants like teachers, police, firefighters, etc., are spoiled and lazy, and look to the government like children looking to a parent. It is insulting and belittling to the many public servants who work hard and serve the needs of the public. The conservative approach to life seems to be to leave everyone on their own, never to assume that one will need help no matter what happens in the economy, in one’s personal health, etc. It’s a great philosophy for those who make a lot of money. For most of the current middle class, where adults are working more than one job and still may lose their homes, getting health insurance through the employer is not a choice but a necessity. It allows us to buy coverage as part of a group, making affordable what would be unaffordable as an individual policy. If the conservatives have their way, we will all be expected to do everything as individuals, never together.

      Reply
  4. Wane Miller

    I do feel for you, I have been there and back. But i’m not ready to condemn any school for what they pay their employees. I also have worked on negotiation teams and there are many things wrong in education, but pay is not one of them. I know several people who work only for the medical insurance and are quite happy to be able to do so.
    You can work elsewhere, move to a cheaper place to live or return to school.
    The options are your choice. Personally I refused to support my kids higher education, I will not be poor while my kids are off to school doing what ever they want.

    Reply
    • Julie Gantz

      What’s that? You say you know several people who happily work just for health insurance yet live in cardboard boxes? All the goods and services they cannot afford do wonders for our economic system. When all teachers and teachers assistants have LEFT their jobs WANE, who will be left to teach the children you might wish to become productive members of the workforce to pay your and your children’s social security payments one day? Stellar advice from an obviously well educated person. They must’ve had no teachers left at your school.

      Reply
    • Tom

      You proclaim that you will not support your kids higher education. I can’t believe you would do that to your own kids. I hope they have a better support system through their friends and other family members.

      Reply
    • Jen

      Wow. . . what planet are you from? It ALWAYS ALWAYS comes down to MONEY!!! I work as a Paraprofessional Instructional Assistant for an Arizona school district. I work thirty-seven hours a week and am taken full advantage of as well as the other I.A.’s that I work with and we only get paid $9.47 an hour. Recently I learned that a certified teacher actually had the audacity to state that being paid $9.47 was “way too high for a position where the workers do nothing” and that as a Paraprofessional we should ONLY be paid no more than $7.00 an hour. . . who can live off of that? So unless you understand what Kathy Meltsakos and the rest of the world of Paraprofessionals endure on a regular basis, and seeing that what we do is NEVER respected and NEVER compensated, then I believe that your opinion means absolutely NOTHING!

      Reply
  5. Amanda

    I agree with almost everyone here. However, I was laid off 3x in 4 years and once I realized that my old “career” was going no where, I decided to go back to school to further my options.
    There are PLENTY of programs out there to help people go back to school. There are even programs that allow teachers to have get their master’s degree in Education and after 5 years teaching the loan is forgiven up to 17k!
    In December I will graduate with my Masters in Special Education. I am ecstatic!

    I see people who think that they are stuck and they do nothing to investigate other options. We have scrimped and saved for two years + taking out student loans to get me through college. But once I am hired, I will start at 45K a year to teach special education!

    So stop complaining and do something about it. I had to suck it up and just realize that when one door closes, you have to try another.

    If you are interested in the different loans available go to http://www.fafsa.edu.gov
    and find out what you can do to open new doors for your future.
    The government owes you nothing.

    Reply
    • Cathy

      That all sounds great, but the reality is someone has to be the instructional assistant. Instructional assistants are a necessary, and often legally required, part of our educational system. Without dedicated instructional assistants like Kathy, we will need even more full time teachers. If you want to see your taxes go up, try replacing the assistants with teachers. Furthermore, NCLB laws require the assistants to have more training and education than has ever been required before. Yet we refuse to compensate the assistants for these higher requirements.
      The real issue here is the cost of health care and health insurance. Why are we constantly attacking the workers when what we need is an overhaul of a system that is becoming too expensive for the middle class to afford?

      Reply
    • Angela G

      Key words “once I’m hired” –good luck finding a job, start at “45K,” really? Where’s that at?? And how much out of that “45K” will be put back towards the loans you took out? Will there be enough left over to pay for the things you need without having to get a second job? Rumor mill is that some WI schools are now trying to say any healthcare you receive is part of your salary–so “congratulations, you got the job at 30K, but really you will only make 25K because that other 5K is for your benefits.” How does that work? How is that fair? Hmmm, to me that sounds dirty. Pay me a wage, then tell me what I’m paying for healthcare. Don’t offer me the job for 30K and then go, “don’t you know? your not bringing in that kind of money, you get less, ha ha”

      Reply
  6. Just Wondering

    Just wondering how much the education association, note it is NOT a union, is soaking her for non-supportive fines (sometimes called dues)!

    Reply
  7. Gwen

    I believe this country has reached the time for alarmist posts. I am a teacher in WI. If you still have a union with bargaining rights, do whatever you can to hold on to them. Do NOT be apathetic in voting in your state elections. Too many people in this state were too busy or simply didn’t care enough to go to the polls last November, but the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity and ALEC weren’t sleeping. They came in with a bulldozer and changed the landscape of WI forever. If WI public workers can lose their right to collectively bargain, so, too, can you. Instead of justifying a para’s pay or a bus driver’s pay etc., we need to band together as a middle class of workers before there is no middle class.

    There is a national push to privatize everything public. Please, visit ALEC. The website states it is bi-partisan. This is the beginning of their hyperbolic statements. Read their ideas and you’ll know their motivation is money. Corporations (of which ALEC is comprised) and politicians do NOT care about education; they care about money. ALEC website: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home

    Want to learn about the true ALEC agenda? Read ALEC exposed: http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Home

    Alarmist thinking? Nope, WI teachers have been taught a lesson other states need to learn before educators are working for minimum wage and no benefits.

    Reply
  8. sour apples

    One word: UNIONS. That’s why I left teaching; the unions were getting in the way. I was forced to pay $100 a month out of every paycheck and what did I get? A quarterly magazine and a little union card. No matter how high I worked to get the scores up they wanted more!

    Reply
    • Cathy

      You have no idea how much you really got from the unions. Studies have shown that the demise of unions is in direct correlation with the demise of the middle class. The right to collective bargaining, the right to have a voice in working conditions are just two of the things that the union protects.
      There have been many times when I have been furious with my union. However, I also know that without unions, the middle class has little chance of surviving.

      Reply
  9. ipaymydues

    Sounds like the NEA has done paras a world of good by bargaining on their behalf…ooops…the NEA doesn’t bargain on the para’s behalf…they just collect their dues

    Reply
  10. Donna

    When we get a raise our insurance go up higher we do everything but paper and iep meeting. I think that we get a better raise .

    Reply
  11. Ralph

    I feel bad for Mrs. Meltsakos but you stated she was a paraprofessional, so she does not have a college degree or teaching credential. What does she expect to be paid? Teachers & paraprofessionals in my district have taken pay cuts, so why should she be exempt? If she would have applied the time she is volunteering to all of these organizations and attended college to earn her degree, and I bet IF she would have committed to Special Education she could have found grants to assist her, she would be in a better position. If she really needs the money it is her choice to have health insurance or she could look for other insurance alternatives for a better rate, if there isn’t a better rate available, why is she complaining? She has the best deal available! She at least has the option to pay 60%, a lot of folks don’t even have that option.

    I too work more than one job to make ends meet but I do not complain about it I feel greatful that I have the opportunity to do so! My Mother, god rest her soul, was a special education paraprofessional – back in the day the term was Aide, loved her job and was greatful to have it – it wasn’t perfect but it was a job she was proud of. She knew if she wanted more money she would have to get a degree and at 60 she went back to college part time to earn it. She had already put 3 kids through college and now it was her turn and she didn’t complain she just worked, she had a stroke and couldn’t complete her degree – 3 claszses short, but she didn’t complain she was happy to have the education that she earned. I took great pride when she was able to attend My graduation for my Masters degree. It was her work ethic that has enabled Me – her son – to become the professional I am.

    Reply
    • Angela G

      Congratulations, you have a Master’s Degree. Whoopie dedoo. But do you go to work every day and get paid nothing–literally, a “0″ net balance? Would you still go to work? If you think she should get a degree to make more money, then why, with you having a Master’s, are working “more than one job”?? I would think you would be too “smart” to find a job that does not give you enough take home pay and requires you to work another job. If having higher education is so great, why are you not getting paid enough to sustain a living? College is not the answer to her problems. Having a Bachelors degree is becoming so common it’s worth/value is decreasing to what a high school diploma’s worth once was years ago. Pretty soon companies will be demanding Master’s degrees and not everyone is higher ed material. We need people of varying education levels to keep this country running as well as people who are passionate about their job. Pay people what they are worth.

      I too have a Masters’ degree. I too work in education. And I too barely make enough money to cover my education expenses as well as my household bills, but I have a passion for my profession that keeps me going to work every day. What other job requires you to spend money (by earning college credit) to make money (gain a raise in pay)? Not many that I know. She’s not “complaining,” she is calling attention to problems in our society, our political ethics, the lack of equality among our workforce, and the need for change. You, on the other hand, are whining. What do you think paras should be paid? If you had a child with needs, what kind a person would you want working with your child? And what type of people would be attracted to an occasional high stress, often exhausting, job that pays peanuts? Would you with your Master’s degree…especially after you forked out over $30,000 to obtain your degree?? And should ALL paras who make peanuts go back to school to make more money? If they did, who would be our paras then?

      Reply
      • JC

        You are so right if she has her masters why so many jobs. I am a paraproffessional in special ed and have been for 8 years working on my 9th. I have recieved my ATT (associate degree in teaching) and am tring to get my teaching degree at the age of 51 and one child in college the other just graduated. I have to work and the school I work for wont even consider letting me work and go to school or help in any way. The government now requires us to have college hours but we do not recieve any extra pay for it. So for right now I am working two jobs both with special need children and taking two internet classes but I will be out of classes I can take and work at the same time. I don’t know what I will be doing to finish. This is government in action.

        Reply
      • Shanna Wilson

        Beg your pardon. The Paras in my school dist. need to be designated, “Hightly Qualified.”
        Go work in the private sector if you don’t like the pay and the job. Many people would be happy to have a job with benefits the tax payers fork out.
        Many people have jobs where they paid and continue to pay for and education on their own dollar, not at taxpayers expense.

        Reply
        • Cathy

          I have worked in the private sector. I never worked nearly as hard in the private sector as I do in teaching. My son has just left teaching to work in the private sector. He is thrilled! No more taking home tons of work at night, no more being second-guessed at every turn, and no more waiting for a prep period 3 hours from now to go to the bathroom!
          As I said, I work harder as a teacher than I ever did in the private sector. I stay because I am gratified every time a kid gets that light bulb in the eyes. I stay because I feel more fulfilled making a real difference. If I were after just the money, I’d have stayed in the private sector. And I’m sad to see excellent teachers like my son leaving the profession because of the current attitude that teachers are all greedy, spoiled little children who don’t know how well they have it. People believe that they understand a teacher’s job because they have been a student. Believe me, the difference between one side of the teacher’s desk and the other is unimaginable. I realize that the general public is sick of hearing over and over again that teachers teach because they love it, but there is a lot of truth in that statement. What other profession requires you to buy supplies to do your job?

          Reply
      • Mrs. Martinsky, M. ed.

        I can’t believe how insensitive you are to others and their ability to make a living.

        Reply
    • Don

      Ralph, how much do you pay in health insurance? How do you know she doesn’t have a degree, just not in education that she earned years before? Do you know how much she has to pay in taxes each pay cycle? You wouldn’t happen to be from Wisconsin would you?

      Reply
    • Jesse

      Ralph, I see your point, but your arguments are full of holes. You imply that having a college degree is a great measure of worth, value, and opportunity.

      I have spent the last 12 years of my life in university. I hold a bachelor degree, two master degrees, and am currently working on my doctorate degree. I also have a very respectable CV full of professional licenses, certificates, and other qualifications.

      And…I work 5 part time jobs to make ends meet.

      And…I am still dirt broke at the end of the day.

      The economy has left many people desolate, including the educated.

      Please be careful how you treat the issue of educational credentials.

      Sincerely,
      Jesse

      Reply
    • Sakina

      “What does she expect to be paid?” Um.. SOMETHING. Anything. Even a dollar. I am pretty sure she expects at least that much, and it’s not much to expect.

      Reply
  12. Ted

    What is not noted in the article is the amount of taxes taken out of her paycheck. How much federal income taxes, state, local (if applicable), and FICA are taken out of her paycheck? There are a lot of missing facts in the article.

    Reply
  13. Diane Sangelo

    changed

    Reply
  14. Jeff

    Maybe our President needs to start waving that paystub around on his “listening” tour and start telling people about “Kathy the Paraeducator,” and “Bill the Nurse,” and “Vince the FIrefighter.” This War on the Middle Class needs to stop!

    Reply
    • Ralph

      The President told the world exactly what he was going to do when he told “Joe the Plumber” he was going to spread the wealth around” and he is doing what he said – How is “Hope & change” working out for us?

      Reply
      • Walter

        If this is the presidents hope and change, its time for a change. Healthcare costs are out of control. All I can think about the Presidents health care plan is that it will have the efficiency of the DMV, and the compassion of the IRS. I am sure Kathy needs the benefits she is working for, she is getting a benefit. I feel for her having to work through this economy. Something needs to be done when medical providers can charge 200.00 plus for a simple test that cost less than 1.00 to administer. People need to take back healthcare, when Walgreens puts in a minute clinic in my neighborhood I’ll be the first in there. I can see a medical professional for a decent price, and I didn’t wait 6o days for an appt. However the Insurance companies are heavily invested in Pharmacies, Hospitals & other medical revenue streams, so lower health care costs are not in their best interest. It makes me sick when I go to the doctor and shell out 35.00 for my copay, pay five hundred dollars a month for insurance coverage, and the Medical member next to me pays 1.05 to see the doctor because her kid has a cold. This is the said truth at least in California specifically Banning.

        Reply
  15. Nancy Papas

    A number of Indiana school bus drivers have commented for years that they ‘PAY the school system to work there’ because deductions for their insurance benefits total more than their salary.

    Some legislators have indicated that’s okay since bus drivers are not full-time (meaning full-day) employees, but Indiana legislators receive insurance and pension benefits for their part-time work (60 session days in odd numbered years and 30 session days in even numbered years). So why not bus drivers and other ESPs too?

    Reply
  16. Dave Bessette

    I understand there has to be budget cuts in state budgets. My question is why is it that our children are the first affected. The schools where our children attend end up cutting teachers, paraprofessionals, programs, sports and whatever neccessary to meet the fiscal responsibility. My personal opinion is that the very FIRST place to cut funding should be the prison and jail system. Why is it that everyone else has to make their own way by getting a job and keeping that job, but a man or woman incarcerated need not work at all. These inmates also do not receive a bill for their health care. They get “3 hots and a cot”. I believe that the government of each state could devise a way in which each inmate creates revenue to pay the bills of the said institution and ALL money supplied by the government for the institution be dispursed appropriately.

    Reply
    • James

      What about people who don’t have kids? Why should they pay into the school system the same as a family with 5 kids? And don’t give me the “Schools are our future” garbage. MOST schools are not preparing kids for their future; their preparing them for the future their grandparents had.

      Reply
      • Steve

        Before you walk down that “users fee” road for schools, consider that child free people also paid to put you through school. Children are a financial burden, but they are the ones who will pay for your retirement when they take over the job you leave behind. Taking that argument further, why should they have to pay the retirement for those who had to few children to provide support in their old age?

        Reply
    • Ted

      Are you suggesting we free murderers, rapists child-abusers, and thieves in order to reduce costs?

      Reply
      • Walter

        Well freeing inmates in California is happening now, I applaude the comment about making prison pay for themselves. Their is a huge waste going on in our prisons. Instead teaching prisoners about responsibility we are letting them spend their time “hanging out,” and becoming better criminals thru their networking opportunities. Where is the common sense here. Our country has lost its common sense.

        Reply
    • Ralph

      Have you ever researched what the ACLU done to ensure the high quality of healthcare and other basic need of inmates? You would be surprised at the amount of money is spent on people who have hurt and killed others.

      Reply
      • Lisa

        For a guy with a Master’s, your grammar is terrible.

        Reply
  17. tmare

    The classified staff in my district has been decimated. The majority of them were reduced to 3.75 hours a day so that the district doesn’t have to pay their benefits. Their workday ends promptly at 11:30. This is right in the middle of my two period block math class that has up to 10 special needs kids mixed in a class of 30. The aide just leaves. It is sad. When it comes time to have translators at the IEP’s, there is no one because they either haven’t arrived or have already left. The library is no longer open in the morning or after school, the library tech’s hours have been cut also. I really feel for these people and I feel for the students who have so much less due to the loss of these employees.

    Reply
    • Christi

      My district eliminated classroom aides at the elementary level (K-6) for this year and only aides with indivdual students (written in IEPs) are left. In addition, the numbers on special educators’ rosters increased. They found a new way to “reduce” the hours on paper for these students, but not the actual hours served. We really need the classroom aides! I’ve taught 34 years in special education, and I’ve never had an aide I didn’t respect and honor for the hard work, respect and love they give our special needs students. May people choose to be paraprofessionals (aides) because they see the mountains of assessments, data collecting, report writing, meetings, extra duty work we do. Most want no part of that responsibility.

      Reply
  18. Momig

    @ Jennifer D:
    Perhaps you should also consider that someone who is working several jobs and getting zero net may be too tired and angry to type well?
    Why be so nasty? Where is your heart? One thing most teachers learn is to realize that there may be more than one answer to a situation or question. Avoid casting slurs and keep discourse civil, please.

    Reply
  19. jean

    Educators today receive little, if any, respsect. Administrators today fear recrimination from parents so respect of teacher is weakened.
    In the New York City system, I have heard, there is little help from the principal or asst. principal (who might go for a break or make phone calls etc.). Administrators should be on every floor for several hours a day thus showing students their support of teachers.
    If everyone is worried about how good/capable teachers are they should look at administrators as well. How many have heard “Let me aXe you something”? Is this any way for anyone, especially the higher ups, to talk?
    To those promulgating against “last in first out” how will we judge who is capable?
    The principal’s pet, preference of one group, somebody’s relative etc.?
    I believe the union has to start looking into problem of “why Johnny can’t learn” – they may find out there are many good teachers but not good parents. Education begins when the child is born – there are no teachers present – only parents.

    Reply
  20. Shelly s

    Im certified and can not even get a job as a paraprofessional because I can not drive a bus. I have a health condition that precludes me from getting a CDL so none of the local districts will hire me as an assistant. The pay in those dual jobs is just enough to cover insurance and retirement with almost enough to cover the fuel to get to school each day. Because SC is being stupid about federal funding, even in special ed there are few jobs. I thought when I got my MS in Special Education finding a job would be easier and I could finally do what I had dreamed of. I was so wrong.

    Reply
  21. Nancy

    NJ Gov Chris Christie calls teacher union members “greedy” and forced our legislators to mandadate increased contributions to our health benefits. Didn’t the Mass. Gov. institute mandatory health care in Mass.–just like our new National ObamaCare program? So why should we complain that we now have NO CHOICE on how to spend our money in the USA? Since we can’t choose to eat and pay for housing instead of making insurance CEO’s rich, I suggest you go to the nearest hospital due to malnutrion (since you can’t afford food on that salary). There you will receive a bed, heat, meals and cable TV and your health provider will foot the bill. After all isn’t everything FREE in the USA today? I believe that’s what most people who wanted National health care reform expected–something for nothing–just like the politicians tell the public “greedy teachers” get for “free”. ENOUGH ALREADY! I suggest we elect politicians who will work for FREE.

    Reply
  22. Mike Burke

    This Massachusetts woman may not necessarily be a teacher and neither am I, but I am involved in education because I am a school bus driver. Yes, you teachers need us. Our pay with our benefits package is minimal. I am paid monthly and receive about $975 a month to live off of with no hope of ever getting ahead in life with anything. Secondary employers are not willing to do much hiring because our primary jobs interfere with what their scheduling would be. I am good at what I do. I am well liked by the students, co-workers and school faculties. I also receive assistance from food pantries because I do not make enough money to eat. (best weight loss program out there) Sure I have to pay bills, many I am way behind on with no hope of ever really catching them up. The biggest sacrifice I make is me. I am not really qualified to do much else and in my present position am unable to do much about it. I am not young anymore and many secondary employers would hold that against me. (the law says they can’t but they don’t really have to disclose their reasons)
    School service employees such as paraprofessionals and bus drivers/ bus monitors are at the bottom of the food chain in the grand schematic of things. Where would the school systems be without us? Can’t we be appreciated a little more by allowing us to have a better life? Everyday is a struggle and all we ask for is a livable wage and a chance to live. At least we are doing something better than panhandling on the street corner, even if the take home pay is about the same.
    I am a conservative, though not a Republican. I am in Virginia and I support “Brains not bombs” when it comes to the state of this country. The people that have jobs are thankful to have something but because we are the working poor we are unable to have any respect or dignity? Our country needs to get back on track. We should put out the fire in our own kitchens before we help put out the one in our neighbor’s kitchen or we will come back to nothing and we’re not far off from that.

    Reply
    • John W.

      You aren’t going to like what I have to say, but reading some of the posts here… I can’t sit back and take it anymore.
      “Yes, you teachers need us.” And you ESP need us. I’m tired of being played off as the bad guy because I make more money than ESP working in my building. I have hundreds of hours of course work that put me on a teacher’s pay scale and move me along to get the scale I make. No one waved a magic wand and made you a bus driver and me a teacher.
      Everyone wants us to be equal, but the fact is we aren’t equal. ESP less in dues than teachers. ESP have their own annual conference–teachers don’t. That would be unheard of. I could hear the screams now!
      The the topper… at this summers RA someone got up and asked if “any ESP dues were used” to develop the document on teacher evaluations.
      If you want to be a teacher go back to school. It’s a simple fact that people are all not paid equally.

      Reply
  23. Jennifer D.

    My son was recently diagnosed with mild sensori-neural hearing loss. He needs hearing aids in both ears to succeed in school. After doing lots of leg-work, I found out that my state has a mandate to give a $1000 allowance to buy hearing aids for children under 12. Unfortunately, I am a teacher and my district declined to carry the state mandated coverage, which is completely acceptable because municiplaities are exempt from these mandates. His hearing tests are covered by insurance, but not the almost $4000 aids. Luckily, my husband and I were able to apply for a health credit card to offset the immediate cost, but it is still coming directly out of our pockets. My question was that if glasses are covered, why not hearing aids? You wouldn’t send a child to school who can’t see. The problem is the premium for hearing coverage is too high and less common (right now), so to offset the cost of insurance for everyone, my district chooses not to carry that coverage.

    Reply
    • Walter

      Healthcare should be basic. You pay for you sons clothes, why sould not pay for his hearing aids. Quit trying get free benefits.

      Reply
  24. Marlene

    Why isn’t CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX covering this? Oh yeah, they are all controlled by the insane so called ‘education reformers’ who are trying to crush public education. The 13th Amendment is supposed to protect us from ‘slavery’…working for no $$ is modern slavery, and it is hitting all races. The only thing that protected workers in the past from this sort of abuse was union organizing. We need to stop union bashing in this country. They are the only reason this country has been so powerful. If you don’t agree, move to a country which has no unions, and start working for 80c/hour.

    Reply
    • Slim

      The slavery issue is a bit alarmist. While her pay is low, she is receiving other compensation in the form of medical insurance, therefore, she is not working as a slave. Now, there are other issues, but waving the flag of slavery really makes us all look unreasonable and unrational.

      Reply
      • Chris

        While “slavery” may be “alarmist” it isn’t a totally unreasonable analogy. Slaves also received compensation in the form of housing, clothing, and food. Meager as these may have been. The only difference is she can choose to walk away, even though she then loses the health care that is probably necessary to keep her family out of bankruptcy.

        Reply
    • Slim

      Comparing this to slavery? Don’t you think that’s a little over the top? While she’s not getting much in total compensation, she is receiving a portion of her health benefits paid for. Therefore, she is getting compensation for her work. This isn’t slavery. Invoking the slavery analogy really makes us teachers look unreasonable and not logical. There are other, better arguments to support our position rather than using an emotional one that bears no relevance to true slavery.

      Reply
  25. Trina Bunard

    I know how she feels. I also received a zero check in June which really hurt since I’m the only one with a salary and raising 2 young grandchildren.

    Reply
  26. Michelle Martelli

    I work as a special Ed para in Ct. I had to leave ajobthat I love. That I am good at it because of the little pay. I am 44 and currently going back to school for my associates. I don’t want to be a teacher. I want to be a better paid para. We are underappricated for all our work. I wish you well and success in Cyr journey

    Reply
  27. Jennifer D

    Teachers who respond with posts filled with misspellings, incorrect punctuation, incorrect grammar and sentence fragments aren’t really helping our cause much. If I were a literacy teacher and hadn’t mastered those basics, I would probably not broadcast how disappointed I was about my pay.

    Reply
    • Tammy

      I agree!!!!!!

      Reply
    • Merry Texter

      For Jennifer (and anyone else who had the same thoughts): Readers of these kinds of ‘comments of the people’ should realize that there are “readers out there” who take great satisfaction in crucifying those who agree with the article. They do this, generally, by acting like a person who supports the subject of the article; however, they trot out whatever will hurt them the most. In this case, since it involves a paraprofessional, the writer (decidedly not a Jennifer) has used some very poor grammar. Trust me–that person is not supportive of teachers’ and paraprofessionals’ rights.

      Reply
    • Shanna Wilson

      Here, here!

      Reply
  28. Vince

    I lost my night school teaching job due to Florida’s “lets get to work governor”. He slash education so Now I can not teach adult english literacy.

    As for teaching we get no respect because we are not paid. Students will flat out tell you your not paid enough for me to respect you. We should charge for every cancelled conference. We should charge when a students fails and repeats. we should charge for discipline.

    Reply
    • Linda Gunn

      Vince,

      “I lost my night school teaching job due to Florida’s “lets get to work governor”. He slash education so Now I can not teach adult english literacy.

      As for teaching we get no respect because we are not paid. Students will flat out tell you your not paid enough for me to respect you. We should charge for every cancelled conference. We should charge when a students fails and repeats. we should charge for discipline.”

      I have no desire to be unkind to you, but I find it difficult to believe you taught Adult English Literacy (the course). The lack of correct grammar, syntax, capitalization, verb tense, and punctuation may have more to do with the reason you lost your job than you are willing to admit.

      Reply
    • Shanna Wilson

      Why would YOU charge? The taxpayers pay for this, not you!

      Reply
  29. Damary mercafo

    Florida: The classifide stafff in the school system have a 3% deduction toward their retirement and 2% increase in the health insurance after the regular deductions, they are taking home 1% of their salary. We need to work at least 2 extra jobs to meet our household expense.

    Reply
  30. Kris

    Meanwhile in Hawaii the DOE FORCED a contract with a 10% pay cut and 10 % increase in what we pay for medical by refusing to negotiate with the HSTA. Said this was ” last and best offer” no bargaining allowed. And this is a democracy???

    Reply
  31. J

    Kathy: Please consider talking to the mainstream press. The vast majority of America calls public employees “pigs at a trough” they really have no idea what is reality.

    Reply
    • Kathy Meltsakos

      I am not against this, the more people that know, the better! This is the reason why I agreed to share my story. There are many many more just like me, who haven’t found their voice yet, let’s help them.

      Reply
    • Vince

      When the economy was booming 2002 – 2007. we could not get enough teachers and public employes in general. Everyone in the private sector was buying boats, cars and houses that we could not afford. Now the economy has crashed and we have our pitifully paid job everyone despises us for being on a government check. seriously. You want to cut government checks stop or modify welfare and government assistance that encourages a lifestyle of non-work.

      Reply
      • Maggie

        AMEN. We have whole schools here filled with vicious kids who have vicious parents (one came to school to attack a teacher with a butcher knife–none of that ever makes the paper) precisely because we are PAYING them to do nothing. Much of it is HIDDEN welfare so that the general public has NO IDEA how much they are paying to create this fast-growing and utterly deadbeat population. They truly believe that work is something that other people should do and that they are somehow entitled to a free ride with all the luxuries–fancy cell phones, $100 fingernails, $200 hairdos……

        It terrifies me for our country.

        Reply
        • Christi

          We are now getting 3rd and 4th generation obtaining complete assistance. It is sad and frustrating.

          Reply
          • Walter

            If your in California your EBT (welfare ATM) card is not only good for cash in Casino’s , I have seen Alcohol purchased at a large grocery store, in LA county it is accepted in almost every liquor store and fast food site. I think its time to quit working and go on the dole. Because paying for the dole is getting difficult. Looks like Jerry B and Anthony V are driving the bullet train on a derail track. Well at least they are not alone. We so need to use common sense especially in the public sector.

            Reply
      • Jean

        I work as a para. for a small town in MA. I am lucky that I am able to get my families health insurance with my husband’s employer, the cost is far more reasonable. I find many people have a misconception about the annual income of paras. in MA. I have been told by many “You make good money per hour, and you collect unemployment in the summer. What do you have to complain about”. Then I explain that my annual income is just over $15,000, that we can not collect unemployment unless laid-off, that around $60 of my check goes to my retirement because we can’t collect Social Security when we retire, and that if I had to pay for health insurance it would cost me over $200 per pay period I would not have much left to my pay. Some people also seem to be unaware that not all school districts allow paras. to have their pay spread out over the entire year. This mean we have to find work for the summer, or get not pay.

        Reply
  32. Tania

    Just another example, I worked with and am friends with a special education paraprofessional who carries the insurance for her family. She actually gets billed by the school district every few months because she does not make enough money for her insurance premium. Thankfully her husband makes enough to pay the other bills but they cannot afford independent insurance, so she stays on in the district.

    Reply
    • Scott

      That sounds fair to me. Why should she pay less than her co-workers for the same insurance plan? It sounds as if many of these posters are forgetting that family health benefits can cost upwards of $20,000–especially if they include prescription, dental, and vision. To get these premium policies, with low co-pays, at a group rate and only have to pay 50% out-of-pocket should be considered a bargain. Our private sector friends and relatives pay 100% of their “small group” plans that are much more expensive and co-pays are $65! I consider myself lucky.

      Reply
    • Scott

      She should be billed. All of us should be paying for our health benefits. Those that include spouses or children should be billed more. To me, it’s a no-brainer. If her salary doesn’t cover the expenses, then the money needs to come from another source. Many of the positions within the school system are not intented to pay enough to raise a family and people shouldn’t complain about that. Do we really want our full-time or part-time cafeteria aides making $60 annually with full health benefites? While we might need the aides, that doesn’t mean their services should cost the taxpayer $85,000 between salary and benefits. Some occupations need to be accepted as supplemental income to the family. If you don’t have another job, or a spouse with a high-paying job, you shouldn’t be doing the work of a low-wage earner. Find a new profession.

      Reply
  33. Michael Kenney

    Meanwhile, Boehner, Cantor and the Tea Party insist that public employees are overpaid, but that millionaires and billionaires need more money and shouldn’t pay any higher taxes (even though the current rate is lower than it’s ever been). Tell your Republican Congressmen and Senators you want the wealthy to pay their fair share!

    Reply
    • Frank

      Better yet, tell them “Goodbye!”

      Reply
      • Walter

        Yes, let the democrats take over, They have done a stellar job in CA. Common sense people.

        Reply
  34. Sheryl

    She’s lucky she even gets benefits. In Utah paraprofessionals don’t even qualify. They (the leaders) did away with that long ago. Paraprofessionals are limited to 35 hours per week so that they don’t qualify for benefits. There are still a few “old-timers” that were hired with 40 hour work weeks and benefits, but they are nearing the end of their careers. Such a shame, as it is obvious that we would recruit better and more dedicated professionals if they were treated better.

    Reply
    • Kimberly Blanco

      “She’s lucky she even gets benefits” Really? Why is it that middle class American workers are saying stupid stuff like this! Come on folks we need to support each other as public workers. The wealthiest 2% have made leaps and bounds up the ladder, and we settle for the crumbs that fall off the table. We all deserve a decent health, prescription, and dental package as workers in the Unites states of America. The only real answer is reforming the way we deliver (single payer/medicare) for all citizens, and the cost curve, using data analysis of what works and what we are wasting our money on. Let’s go union strong. Write, e-mail your legislators and tell them how distraught you are that the CEO’s and CFO’s of Blue Cross, Aetna , and Signa are making millions(14) to deny healthcare and raise our premiums by 10% or more each year. How do I get in the single payer pool? I am sick and tired of my paycheck being gobbled up by inadequate, overused, unintelligent healthcare. ENOUGH! Let’s not fight each other but direct our anger at the greedy who continue to eat all of the pie!

      Reply
      • BHW

        And who do you think pays for the single payer system. Every one of us will pay more in taxes to fund such a system. Then we will have to apply for benefits and have someone sitting in an office making much more money than you or me deciding whether we are young enough or old enough or important enough to get the procedure we need. Doctors will be second guessed and our overall state of health will go downhill. If you think it is bad now, just wait…be careful what you wish for!

        Reply
    • Marlene

      What’s the point of ‘qualifying for benefits’ if it takes 100% of your paycheck? If you quit your job, you’d qualify for medicaid.

      Reply
  35. Ted Raihl

    Why isn’t this story on all the news networks as a counterpoint to the “overpaid public worker” theme that so many in D.C, & state capitals sound again & again?

    Kathy M. in this story is right on: we HAVE to tell our stories & those of our members again & again. We don’t have our own TV network, but we DO have millions of members to tell their stories in the grocery line, at daycare, at church, anywhere folks will listen.

    Reply
    • Scott

      She isn’t getting paid, but she is being compensated. And I be she ends up getting a big chunk of “credit” from the IRS when she files her taxes. Many lower payed people end up with a zero paycheck by opting into their employer’s group policy. This isn’t just happening in the school system. It works out well that they can get a group rate in exchange for work. Granted, you need another source of income, so it’s usually only suitable for married couples or someone without family obligations who has the time to work more than one job.

      Reply
    • Walter

      Most of the over paid public workers are Police, Firefighters, and some Quasi government positions where oversight is lax. Unfortunately when you have school superintendents at micro Districts (Banning, CA) being paid a Quarter of a million dollars a year to run the district into the Ground (worst financial condition in Riverside County). Taxpayers start to lump 35k a year teachers into the overpaid public worker category as well.

      Reply
  36. Lois Jacobs

    I know Kathy. She is a hard worker and dedicated Massachusetts Teacher Association member.
    It is outrageous that she has no income from this job. ESP’s are entitled to a living wage. Often in systems, they are the lowest paid employees and expected to do all the scutt work. So often administration does not respect them and see them as women who wanted mother’s hours.
    I would advise Kathy to look at the Massachusetts state plan to see if she can find a cheaper plan. I am proud that my state requires insurance for all but it must be affordable.
    Keep up educating the public on the good work all those who work in the schools.

    Reply
  37. Barb Armour

    We are moving to all day kdg. in our district, a benefit for the children, but a severe blow to some veteren drivers, some with over 20 years who will be losing over $10,000.00 a year in income. There MIGHT be part time monitor positions in the classrooms , but we will have to interview, like the other drivers. And they are at the top of the pay scale..Who do you think an administrator would pick! They have managed children with thier backs turned and managed them SAFELY…for years, that should count in a classroom setting.

    Reply
    • Eileen

      I gather you are a bus driver or are related to one. While I understand your concern for the loss of hours during that midday shuffle from morning to afternoon Kindergarten, in no way do I see any comparison to being in a classroom. (“They have managed children with thier backs turned and managed them SAFELY…for years, that should count in a classroom setting.”) A driver’s responsibility is totally different then that of a teacher in the classroom. I personally know drivers who care less what goes on in their buses and the din is deafening. While they may be driving safely, they are NOT supervising the kids the way a teacher would conduct a classroom! Also your comment, “but we will have to interview, like the other drivers. And they are at the top of the pay scale..” makes it clear that you understand seniority dictates who gets certain jobs.

      Reply
  38. Mary Sharpe

    This letter speaks to many districts in this nation. What has become of us? It is very frustrating to me. I have spent 35 years teaching and now I feel I am paying to go to work.

    Reply
  39. Mark D

    What I’ve done in the past and I suspect many others do is simply for-go health insurance (don’t have any). It’s really silly for her to spend all of her income on something that she might or might not need. Alot of folks have a problem with this, and it’s understandable, but folks really need to consider what would happen if they did get sick enough to need that insurance. Chances are they would loose everything they have anyways. It may seem like insanity to have no legitimate access to health care, but that’s the country we live in. Spending what little money you do have on insurance is pretty silly, unless you have stock in an insurance company.

    Reply
    • Juliann

      Mark,
      It’s disgraceful that it seems ok to anyone that this woman accepted a job with a pay and compensation package (healthcare) and is now asked to choose whether to eat or continue with health insurance. I am a cancer survivor and can tell you that I didn’t think I needed health insurance until the day I did need it. I would literally be dead without the health care that my employer offered. It is ridiculous to ask anyone to accept such a drastic cut in benefits that they have to work for nothing in order to take their children to the doctor.

      Do you think any of the Wall Street investors or even our legislators need to make the same choice? I don’t think so. Do we value our children so little that we don’t expect to pay the professionals who help raise them? I think that is the crux of the problem.

      Our foolishness now is (not might) driving hard-working, caring people away from education. If we aren’t willing to pay a decent wage and provide a decent benefit package, who do you think will take such jobs? Don’t complain in the future when the minimum-wage automaton who replaces this hard-working woman doesn’t seem to give a hoot about your child. What can you expect for $0.00/week? Not much.

      Reply
      • Bill White

        Kathy’s situation is an abomination. We pay lip-service to “valuing” our employees and this is how we show it! As a Special Education teacher, Paraeducators are extremely important in what they do. An extra pair of hands and an extra pair of eyes are worth their weight in gold. Quite literally, this has meant a de-escalation of a crisis because the Para was able to step in appropriately while I was occupied with other students. It’s the same story many of us know: the situation didn’t become a problem because properly trained, caring professionals were prepared and intervened at the right time.

        My only concrete suggestion is to see if the District offers an HSA account, which usually can cost less out of pocket for the premium. Best wishes, Kathy!

        Reply
    • Anya Yankelevich

      Appreciate your comment, Mark. Just as a point of information, though, many districts (like the one I used to work in) don’t allow employees to turn down insurance unless they have a “qualifying event”, which in many cases doesn’t include finding better individual or state insurance on your own. In other cases, even if you are “allowed” to decline insurance, you still pay some premium off of your paycheck to fund the group policy for the district – a way of sharing the cost of expensive-to-insure folks.

      Reply
    • Marlene

      Most insurance companies won’t take you if you have a pre-existing complication. I would NEVER advise someone to go without insurance. I just paid $300+ for 10 days of antibiotic for a friend who has no insurance. If you are on a school district’s plan, they have to accept you. I have another friend, who is a teacher, and both of her parents have MS. She can’t get private insurance, and has to keep her job forever, to keep her benefits.

      Reply
  40. Kate

    Here in Michigan, we face these same facts while our bosses tell us, “You should just be happy you HAVE a job.” As if merely having a job pays the bills, when every few months the bureaucrats find another reason to take more money away from us. Soon we will be paying them to *allow* us to keep these jobs we should be so happy to have. This year not only were we given a nearly $3000.00 pay cut, our taxes were withheld at a higher rate, we are required to pay 3% higher into retirement, and our co-pays and spend downs for our insurance have been drastically increased. What other group is experiencing such harsh penalties for serving public by caring for and educating their children? American values have gotten so very skewed, it’s not only embarrassing it’s shameful.

    Reply
    • Michael Kenney

      Teachers and other public employees are being scapegoated by Republican/Tea Party politicians because the free market system they refused to regulate failed miserably. The Republicans can’t allow the average voter to catch on to how miserably their approach failed (banks and corporations did whatever they wanted under Republican governments) because voters might insist on fair treatment for working people. So they have to scapegoat someone- in order to distract attention from the real issue- Republicans failed.

      Reply
      • Betsy Marshall

        Thank you Michael. I have been saying the same thing since the beginning of the orchestrated attacks against public school teachers and other public employees.
        We have been living under a manipulated and corrupted market not a free market system for some 30 years now. When the economy crashed three years ago, those in the financial industry that actually precipitated the crash got out with their millions and billions in tact. In fact many of those same people have made huge profits in the last few years. The only way for them to continue to keep the heist going is to turn attention away from themselves. They have done this very effectively with the help of their paid corporate shills in the media.
        As frustrating as it is, I am beginning to feel hopeful because It does seem that people are beginning to talk to one another about economic injustice and the failure of “trickle down economics”. When people turn off their TVs and start to communicate and work together, like the good people of Wisconsin, then we will begin to get the economy back on track for a majority instead of just a few.

        Reply
      • BHW

        Michael,
        I think you need to take a history lesson. The Tea Party was just organized after the 2008 election to point out the inadequacies of the government…not just one party or the other. Because their values are conservative they are most often identified with the Republican Party. However, the problems as you stated have developed over more than 30+ years which has included administrations from both parties, Congresses and Senates from both parties. There are inherent flaws to our system and people who speak against the system are called names and denigrated. Teachers and other professionals in the field of education need to stop the name-calling. We all need to show the value of our work by making a difference rather than joining in the negative and harmful behaviors I’ve seen exhibited by the educators in Wisconsin and other locations. The horrible mess left by the crowds in the Wisconsin demonstrations was embarrassing to me as an educator. I’d like to think we are better than that. I worked in the private sector most of my life, paying my own retirement and medical insurance. People in retail and other service industries often work several jobs with one being the source for medical insurance. Many of these people have college degrees and even advanced certifications. My belief is that government needs to get out of the business of education. The professionals who have trained and educated themselves to understand the needs of our students should be able to create and guide the development of effective programs. Since 1867 when the Department of Education was started, more and more control has been given to the federal government. What started as a tool to collect information to help the states, has become a dictatorial giant telling the states what can and can not, what should and should not be taught.

        Remember always…be careful what you wish for…you might just get it…

        Reply
      • Jesse

        Michael, amen. I saw the crisis coming many years ago (around the mid 2000s) and took measures to get out. After being a long-time public school teacher in the US, I have now crafted a niche profession for myself as an international educator. It is very rewarding, high paying, and I am so glad that I took those steps. I dread the idea of living and working in the US at this time. It’s just not worth it…the US lost me due to its sloppy economic practices…how many more teachers will it lose?

        Reply
  41. Sue J

    What does “hard” in this sentence mean: “It’s an all-too-common story and it’s the one facing Kathy Meltsakos, a special education paraprofessional working in northeast Massachusetts, hard by the Atlantic. “

    Reply
    • Amy

      “Hard by” means “right next to” or “at the edge of”.

      Reply
      • Jesse

        Amy, interesting. Is this an East-coast slang term? It is interesting to see how much English varies across regions, even within the same country.

        Reply
  42. John Houghton

    Under the Massachusetts healthcare system (“RomneyCare”), she should be able to get help from the State with paying her healthcare premiums, or switching to a public plan if the family income fits the guidelines. This solution, of course, doesn’t apply to people with similar problems in other states.

    Reply
    • Joanne Anderson

      If she’s a PUBLIC employee, she may not be allowed to switch to a different plan. We don’t always get private sector options.

      Reply

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