Pay for instructional assistants, sometimes called paraprofessionals, is frequently mentioned as one of the causes of the current dispute between Spokane Public Schools and the Spokane Education Association.
Compared to other districts in Washington, Spokane’s average pay for instructional assistants is low, according to a Spokesman-Review analysis of data from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
These aides help students who have disabilities, behavioral problems or other special needs. A majority work in special-education classrooms, where they help teachers design lessons and work directly with students who need academic and behavioral help.
“They’re kind of the teacher’s right-hand person,” said Lisa Pacheco, special-education director for Spokane Public Schools. “They’re an integral part of our special-education staff, and we can’t function without them.”
Assistants start at $11 per hour at Spokane Public Schools, according to the district’s salary schedule for 2014-15. That position requires a high school diploma and 48 semester credits of college, but not a college degree. For a full-time worker, that’s $22,900 per year.
Maximum pay for an instructional assistant is $20.03 per hour for a higher-tier position that includes more responsibilities.
The highest-paid instructional assistant in the district earns $33,582 per year in total salary, according to the personnel database from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, which lists all school district employees in the state and their salaries.
That database classifies employees by job description. Instructional assistants are counted as “aides,” along with bus monitors and lunchroom aides. Spokane Public Schools employs more than 650 aides in the equivalent of about 290 full-time jobs.
According to the state database, average pay for a full-time aide position in Spokane is $28,068 per year, compared to $30,007 in Kennewick, $32,065 in Yakima and a state average of $33,792.
A 7 percent pay raise would take the Spokane average up to $30,033 per year.
Those averages are based on the total amount earned by aides across the district and don’t take into account variations due to experience levels.
The district disputes those numbers and says its pay per hour is competitive with other districts. According to a report commissioned by the district and conducted by Segal Waters Consulting, Spokane’s starting base pay is in the 90th percentile when compared to 14 other districts in Washington, including Central Valley, Yakima, Kennewick and Seattle.
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