Our special ed bargaining teams are developing what could be important advances in the quality of services to students, especially in the areas of parapro training and relief in urgent situations.
"Most paras start as substitutes, usually with no training and a limited idea what they are getting into," said
Celina Austin, special education IA at McGilvra Elementary. "Our teams are working on a real training program for para subs, and on creating a pool of experienced paras to be assigned to buildings in crisis."
Right now a building can apply to a relief fund for immediate help. That help is often in the form of posting a job for a substitute parapro.
"That process brings another adult to the room, but we'd like to be able to guarantee that they are actually an experienced para, and perhaps even a behavior expert," said Austin.
The District has repeatedly noted that per student special ed spending is much higher in Seattle than elsewhere, making them somewhat reluctant to approve new investments.
But SEA members have identified an investment that could improve services and potentially rein in escalating costs.
"Principals, parents and educators know that IA support can be critical for students to succeed in inclusion," said
Maggie Burgess, special ed teacher. "But without an IA available in continuum resource programs, that leads to more kids in the Access program, which is way more expensive."
Adding an IA in continuum resource programs would have an upfront cost, but we believe it would lead to fewer kids being placed in the more restrictive Access program, and potentially result in both cost savings and more appropriate placement.
Parental Leave: New Developments
SEA members all around the District named paid parental leave and more personal leave as high priorities in our building bargaining meetings earlier this spring.
The state has actually stepped up in this arena (yes, you read that correctly). In addition to a new statewide parental leave insurance benefit that goes into effect January 1, 2020, the state has also passed new regulations allowing state employees (including school district employees) to use up to 16 weeks from your sick leave bank for parental leave (i.e. not simply pregnancy disability).
Additionally, the state is also allowing staff to use shared leave for this purpose, which is especially important since parental leave is often needed most by staff with fewer years of experience and therefore less accumulated sick leave.
Our teams have also been discussing personal leave - currently two days per year - and the merits of increasing that allotment.