School Para Legislation Advances
Local 2267 member Sheryl Elliot testifies in favor of HB 5305.
March 17, 2016 - Paraeducators in Connecticut are applauding yesterday's bipartisan vote in the General Assembly's Education Committee in support of House Bill 5305, An Act Concerning School Paraprofessional Training. The proposed legislation would require school districts to provide at least one day of paid training to paraprofessionals prior to the start of the school year.
Click here for the bill's language.
During otherwise engaged and intelligent discussion among committee members, State Representative Sam Belsito (R-Tolland) compared paras to babysitters. This antiquated belief is regrettably held by some and is both insulting and uninformed.
"Rep. Belsito must have been absent from the Education Committee's public hearing when I testified in support of this legislation," said Shellye Davis, a paraprofessional in Hartford Public Schools. "Had he been present, he would have heard me explain how a significant number of paraprofessionals in Hartford have been injured on the job as a result of the lack of Applied Behavioral Analysis training.
"And he would have heard me explain how this legislation will actually help local districts save money by reducing Workers' Compensation claims and recruiting costs through improved retention rates," added Davis, who serves as an AFT Connecticut vice-president for Paraprofessionals & School-Related Personnel (PSRP) and co-president of the Hartford Federation of Paraprofessionals.
"It is clear from his comments that Rep. Belsito is completely ignorant of the role that paraprofessionals play in today's classroom," said Shirley Gerich, a paraprofessional in Tolland Public Schools. "His dismissive comments help illustrate the need for this legislation as too many districts only consider paras as an afterthought, and in many instances fail to provide even basic training for what can be complicated assignments. We need this legislation so that we can fulfill the needs of our students to the best of our ability," added Gerich, a member of CSEA SEIU Local 2001.
"It would be helpful for paraprofessionals to have training in de-escalation techniques, also known as PMT," said Sheryl Elliot, a paraprofessional in Bristol Public Schools. "We receive that training in Bristol, but my colleagues in other communities do not. Some of the students that we deal with struggle to control their emotions and can lash out physically when they are frustrated. While this bill does not address the total need for training, it is a good start," added Elliot, who also serves on Council 4 AFSCME, Local 2667’s executive board.
Click here to read Elliot's testimony on HB 5305.
With its passage out of the education committee, the bill now heads to the appropriations committee for its next vote. H.B. 5305 is not an unfunded mandate; school districts have latitude to determine how best to spend Education Cost Sharing (ECS) funds. While the legislation might necessitate reallocating those funds, the resources are already in place for districts to implement H.B. 5305.