Preserving Your Paraprofessionals Means Preserving Your District

AASPA Blog ,

Looking ahead to the 2021/22 school year, we see one North Star guiding school staffing: educators across America are irreplaceable. Fatigued parents recognize the invaluable roles of educators, whether it’s a teacher, paraprofessional, substitute teacher or tutor. Even students, who anxiously anticipate meeting up with their friends at school, admit to eagerly awaiting a reunion with their teachers. 

A new White House administration describes itself as pro-education, but the reality is that even with grants, stimulus monies and federal recovery funding, the pandemic has taken a toll on the financial system funding school districts.  Administrators know from experience that some painful number crunching is inevitable. And while the future is bright, budgets are being stretched razor-thin in an effort to meet all needs, and district administrators are being forced to reevaluate staff levels.  

But if there’s one thing everyone agrees on post-pandemic, it’s that students learn best when there are qualified educators supporting their learning. 

Schools across the country got very creative and experimented with new workforce planning solutions during the pandemic. Some of these solutions are not only efficient--they help maintain student achievement amidst unstable classroom conditions. One of those solutions stands out the most: the nimble redeployment of the paraprofessional. 

Let’s spotlight the paraprofessional 

As a country, we know that it takes qualified professionals to teach. Administrators, parents and students recognize “the village” consists of more than just teachers: substitutes, paraprofessionals and tutors are key to remain flexible and responsive to students’ needs. One needs to look no further than the incredibly proactive pool of the nation’s paraprofessionals to find the quintessential frontline workers schools cannot afford to lose. 

In many school districts, paraprofessionals helped keep students connected and engaged, and often on their own, as they might not have been included in the same training that teachers accessed early on. Without professional development, paraprofessionals took the initiative to learn the technology and support remote learning, which boosts the morale of students and of teachers themselves. Paraprofessionals often gathered data on virtual learning to inform the teachers. When schools reopened to special needs children first, it’s the paraprofessionals who reminded these students about the importance of social distancing, of waving instead of hugging, and in other ways reinforced safety in the classroom and provided a sense of belonging.  

Generate cost savings to preserve the workforce 

Schools need paraprofessionals now more than ever, to address learning loss, maintain safety, and restore a sense of normalcy for students. However, many districts are faced with having to evaluate paraprofessional staff reductions, which will only put further pressure on our already-stretched teachers and ultimately impact student achievement.

The total cost of recruiting, screening, managing, and paying a paraprofessional staff is often indiscernible. Beyond the daily pay rate, there are other significant, and often unrecognized, expenses that contribute to a district’s overall expenses, such as time and money spent by school personnel to recruit paraprofessionals, as well as provide worker’s compensation, orientation, in-house payroll processing, scheduling, ongoing coaching and development, grant-tracking, and much more.  

The total cost of recruiting, screening, managing, and paying a paraprofessional staff is often indiscernible.

Kelly Education’s managed paraprofessional program is one that arose out of a need during the pandemic and has proven to be a continuous cost-saver for school districts. With a managed paraprofessional solution, a district can save between $3,000-$5,000 per full-time paraprofessional on staff. How? Kelly Education has identified three categories of time and cost savings that a district may realize in a managed program:

  • Administrative Relief: taking on 100% of the employment responsibility of your current full-time paraprofessional staff, including credentialling, hiring, onboarding, payrolling, benefits administration, worker’s compensation and unemployment. 
  • Professional Development and Continuous Education: providing critical training and certification, ongoing professional development, job coaching and performance management.
  • Recruiting Expertise: leveraging alternative talent pools and credentialing methodologies to engage diverse, highly qualified, and culturally aligned candidates when you need to recruit new paraprofessionals.

With a managed paraprofessional solution, a district can save between $3,000-$5,000 per full-time paraprofessional.

For example, in Teaneck, New Jersey, Christopher C. Irving, Ed. D., Superintendent of Schools, was facing nearly impossible budgetary challenges. After an evaluation of the situation, Kelly Education partnered with the district to implement a managed paraprofessional solution. Kelly’s team sought out improvements to the entire operation, keeping the school district up to date with appraisals, fill rate, communications and personnel changes. 

With Kelly managing the paraprofessional staff, Dr. Irving said, “We were able to forge considerable savings while maintaining effective and safe student services.”  

Times have changed, and we must change with them

Paraprofessionals may be known to the school community as many different titles: paraeducator, aide, education technician, teacher aide, instructional assistant, classroom assistant, education assistant, learning support assistant, and teaching assistant. Credentialing requirements for these various titles can range widely by state. Regardless of title or credential, their value to a learning community is constant. 

At Kelly Education, we fully understand the cost pressures in public education. We know what it takes to manage a program like this and can share a track record of cost savings. Preserving the workforce in the face of budget cuts is possible.

The majority of administrators agree that the teaching workforce will never look the way it did a year ago. In fact, we have experienced significant change over the past several years.  So, it’s time to think of change as an evolution. How can we continue to evolve our thinking and our processes to accommodate inevitable change, without impacting the academic performance of our school systems? By analyzing trends and developing solutions to help district administrators reduce costs, we can help you preserve your workforce, and most importantly, support students in their academic journey.