MTA President Max Page and MTA Vice President Deb McCarthy sent the following message to MTA members in honor of Education Support Professionals Day on Nov. 15:
We should honor ESPs for their commitment and work ethic every day of the year, but today is National Education Support Professionals Day, a highlight of NEA’s American Education Week, and we want to make sure that every MTA member recognizes the contributions and needs of these educators.
In Massachusetts, our ESP members represent about 20 percent of the MTA union. We simply cannot perform our jobs as educators without the support of our colleagues. ESPs in higher education and preK-12 are essential.
In public education, they ensure safety on the bus and prepare healthy meals for students in cafeterias. They provide one-on-one and small-group instruction in classrooms. They clean and repair buildings and ensure that workplace technology keeps us connected. ESPs staff the administrative offices. They are often the first at our schools and campuses in the morning and among the last to leave.
For the past several years, we have made their financial security a top priority in contract negotiations and in statewide campaigns. The MTA PreK-12 Bill of Rights has been endorsed by 259 locals, who collectively represent 417 units. If your local has not already done so, please ask your leadership to endorse this Bill of Rights.
In higher education, the Bill of Rights for Classified Staff sets out six areas to guide contract negotiations, including fair wages, equal benefits, full staffing and job security, healthy workplaces and public accountability. Please review it and endorse it. Their work is necessary to maintain the campus infrastructure at the UMass system and meet the needs of students and they should be treated fairly.
Throughout the state, MTA locals committed to the ideals contained in these Bills of Rights are winning major advances for ESPs. Consider these, among the many recorded in the past year:
Strong organizing in Wellesley led to transformative wage increases for ESPs, including COLA increases of 15 percent over three years; Braintree paraeducators won a 23 percent increase over the three-year contract; Worcester paraeducators won an historic contract with annual salaries ranging from $33,094 to $39,943. And most recently, in Andover, Instruction Assistants won big gains in their new contract.
Despite these gains, many more school districts continue to pay below-living wage salaries to ESPs. Inflation erodes the values of the contracts over time, and in many areas of the state, particularly on Cape Cod, inflation this year has made a living wage a moving target. We are committed to economic justice for our ESP members and will continue to advocate for them in any way possible.
Today, and every day, recommit yourself to your colleagues and honor the work of Education Support Professionals. Take a few minutes to nominate a deserving individual for the 2024 ESP of the Year Award, an honor that will be awarded at the MTA ESP Conference in April.