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Los Angeles strike highlights meager US school worker wages. WGN Radio 720

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Bus drivers drive American children to school. There, cafeteria employees feed the children, and teacher aides assist the most needy students.

And their salaries are notoriously low. School support staff earn an average of about $25,000 a year in Los Angeles. This is barely enough for him to live in one of America’s most expensive cities.

Wages are a factor behind a three-day strike that shut down the entire Los Angeles school system and spotlighted the meager wages of support staff who serve as the backbone of schools across the country.

Even outside of expensive California, school gigs often don’t pay for living expenses.

Virginia school official Arthur Anderson said it’s unfortunate the strike was necessary to call attention to a long-standing problem, but hopes it will help.

“People are so frustrated. Mr. Anderson is an assistant teacher in the Chesapeake Public School System, has worked for 30 years and earns $32,000. He has three other part-time jobs to support himself. “I’m having trouble paying my rent. I’m having trouble paying my bills,” he said. “I love what I do. I just don’t like what I get paid for.”

Anderson works 36 hours a day as a special education assistant in the school’s science department. However, he is also sought after for his role as a bus driver and janitor. If the science teacher is absent, he will stand in and he will be charged an additional $10 per class. “I did it today. I got an extra $20.”

The strike against the Los Angeles Unified School District, which began Monday, is led by teacher’s assistants, parents and other support staff, who are among the district’s lowest paid workers. They want better wages and more staff. The teacher joined the picket line in a show of solidarity that forced the school district to close schools in her second-largest district in the country with half a million students.

School support staff across the country are telling stories of spending their entire careers in public education, filling in the jobs that keep schools functioning. But many do not earn a living and, like the strike workers in Los Angeles, cannot afford to live in the communities where they work.

“The Los Angeles problem isn’t just Los Angeles. It’s a national problem, and it’s been created for decades,” said a national said Princess Moss, Vice President of the Education Association.

The NEA, the nation’s largest teachers’ union, released data last year showing the average salary for full-time school support staff is $32,800. His full-time K-12 support staff salaries were highest in Delaware ($44,738) and lowest in Idaho ($25,830), although salaries vary widely from state to state. It may also vary within metropolitan areas and school districts, depending on years of service.

With staff shortages exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are struggling to hire during a strong labor market, adding to the strain on remaining staff.

A RAND survey of school leaders last year found that about three-quarters of school leaders said they were looking to hire more substitutes, and 58% wanted more bus drivers. and 43% are looking to hire more tutors. In recent years, staff have also found themselves at the forefront of implementing pandemic his protocols and helping students struggling with mental health and behavior.

A Ministry of Education survey found that more than half of public schools across the country started this school year feeling understaffed, and many struggled to secure jobs for key support staff, especially in transportation and administrative duties. was When asked about their biggest challenges, nearly 4 in 10 candidates said they felt the pay and benefits weren’t good enough.

Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union represents approximately 30,000 LAUSD Teacher Aides, Special Education Assistants, Bus Drivers, Janitors, Cafeteria Workers and other support staff. Unions say many are trapped in poverty due to low wages and limited working hours, and struggle with inflation and high housing costs. support staff, including those who earn about $25,000 a year.

The district is proposing a cumulative price increase of 23%, starting at 2% retroactively in the 2020-21 school year and ending at 5% in the 2024-25 school year. The package also includes more full-time jobs and expanded medical benefits. Coach Alberto Carvalho accused the union of refusing to negotiate and said he was ready to meet at any time.

The leader of United Teachers in Los Angeles, representing 35,000 educators, counselors and other staff, pledged solidarity with the strikers.

Experts say it’s unusual for different unions within the same school district to come together, but unified labor action in Los Angeles could mark an inflection point.

“The notion that teachers and service workers unions say they can do better together can be contagious to other communities,” said a lecturer in the Department of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University and an expert on education union issues. One Lee Adler said:

The fight for higher wages is also growing in other school systems.

As an example, food service workers in Hastings, Minnesota have been on strike for six weeks over wage increases and other issues. Starting wages in suburban school districts with about 4,300 students are less than $15 an hour, according to unions representing 35 workers.

“There’s a growing movement to fight for a living wage,” said Rebecca Collins Givan, associate professor in the School of Business and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. I don’t, and it’s fiction to suggest that people don’t have to live on the wages they earn.”

With 26 years of experience as a bus driver, Carl Kirchgessner makes $20.35 an hour driving a school system outside of Rochester, New York. His Rush-Henrietta Central School District is still struggling with a driver shortage due to the pandemic that many have had to double down on. on the route. He said he can afford to make a living because his wife also works.

“If it were just me,” he said.

___

Binkley reported from Washington DC

The Associated Press education team is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. AP is solely responsible for all content.

https://wgnradio.com/news/national/los-angeles-strike-highlights-paltry-us-school-worker-pay/ Los Angeles strike highlights meager US school worker wages. WGN Radio 720

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