OPINION: Should Hingham Paraeducators Have to Work 2 or 3 Jobs to Make Ends Meet?

Hingham Paraeducators, Courtesy Photo

March 28, 2023 By Members of the Hingham Education Association

Hingham Paraeducators who care for the most vulnerable students in our town make between $19,000 and just over $25,000 a year (if they have been working in Hingham for 7 years). For context, in MA to be eligible for food stamps you have to make under $27,180 a year. According to the MIT Living Wage calculator, the living wage in Plymouth county (the wage a single person with no dependents would need to afford the basic necessities of living) is $45,510. Do we as a community believe paraeducators deserve a living wage? Should Hingham paraeducators have to work 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet?

This is an open letter to the Hingham community. The paraeducators of Hingham Public Schools are currently negotiating a contract with the school committee and need the support of the community for livable wages.

Paraeducators are the unsung heroes of our schools, from pre-school through high school. Much more than supporting classroom teachers, we are essential to fulfilling individualized education plans (IEPs). We hold small group instruction and provide academic and socio-emotional support for special education and struggling students. We are vital to the success of all students and play transformative roles in their holistic development. Shamefully, many of us are the lowest paid HPS employees. Despite our integral role, the maximum annual salary we can earn is a meager $25,535 and that takes 7 years to reach from a starting salary of $19,212. HPS high school students are often better compensated at their part-time jobs than the paraeducators in their classroom.

Devoted HPS paraeducators are leaving our schools because it is not economically feasible to stay. Like you, paraeducators have families, rents/mortgages, student loans, and other financial responsibilities. Embarrassingly, nearly 20% of paraeducators surveyed carrying the Town’s health insurance, actually OWED money to the Town at the end of a pay period. Paraeducators don’t receive any paid vacation and every time school is canceled or shortened, their pay is cut. We urge the School Committee not to ignore our plea for a fair, living wage. It is simply untrue that “anyone can do the job.” Many paraeducator openings remain unfilled and it is Hingham students who suffer. It’s difficult to fill open positions because current wages don’t competitively compensate staff for the expertise and commitment the role requires. Prospectively, if this continues, more paraeducators will leave their jobs and it will be our students who are most impacted. In fact, if we can’t hire and retain enough paraeducators because of low wages, Hingham may not be able to fulfill legally mandated requirements as part of individualized education plans (IEPs).

We make this public appeal because all of us have a vested interest in our children’s future. Because we all want to continue devoting our energy and expertise to the students of Hingham. Help us help them by making your support for HPS paraeducators known to the School Committee!

To learn more about our struggle for a living wage and take action go to hinghamesplivingwage.com, follow us on facebook at hinghamesplivingwage.com/facebook and instagram at hinghamesplivingwage.com/instagram, and stay tuned for more information.

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