School hourly workers still without pay assurance; lay-off notices go out

School hourly workers are waiting for pay assurances from the Legislature just as lay-off notices are going out from local school districts. The Senate Republican amendment discussed on Wednesday did not include the pay provision even though the House version will cover some of these lowest-paid workers in Minnesota schools.

Senate DFL Education Committee members proposed including the hourly worker provisions as well as teacher testing and graduation and grade advancement reassurances at the Wednesday meeting.

Hourly workers have a variety of positions in a school district. Their roles include, but are not limited to, instructional assistants, Title I paraprofessionals, pupil support assistants, special education paraprofessionals, job coaches, lunchroom and playground assistants, hall monitors, media center assistants, and health office assistants. Hourly workers make up 20,000 school employees across the state. 

Despite the Governor’s Executive Order and MDE guidance encouraging districts to pay hourly workers, it hasn’t happened in all districts. Districts can lay-off school employees in fee-based programs. This includes at a minimum community education programs, nutrition programs, some preschool programs, and coaches.

Keeping educators employed keeps them in our schools supporting our community and students and off the growing unemployment rolls. Educators who are laid off may not return to schools to work next fall. This could be problematic for districts. Laid off employees are also likely to lose any health benefits they have, endangering their health and the health of their families and communities during a pandemic.