Dec 22, 2021
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS — Marshalltown High School paraeducator Tracy Macbeth works with a student on a math exercise.
In order to attract more paraeducators amidst historic staffing shortages and improve on the low wages usually associated with the profession, the Marshalltown school board approved a pay increase during Monday night’s regular meeting.
“We recognized a number of years ago that we had some work to do to try and get our paraprofessionals’ wages up to what we would consider a fair wage for the work performed,” Marshalltown Community School District (MCSD) Superintendent Theron Schutte said.
According to Schutte, the MCSD has been considering how to make significant pay increases possible — beyond smaller annual increases — for about five years now.
MCSD Director of Human Resources Nora Ryan presented the proposal, which would move all paras in Lane 2 to Lane 3, effective Jan. 1, equating to between a 10 and 18 percent pay increase. Lanes are effectively years of experience within the district, and depending on how many years of experience an employee has, they will be placed in specific lanes — the higher the lane, the higher the pay.
Additionally, at the start of the 2022-2023 school year, all paraeducators, current or future, holding a bachelor’s degree or a valid paraeducator certification will receive an extra 30 cents per hour. Since the negotiations with the Paraeducator Bargaining Unit are usually held in the spring for any changes to take effect in the fall, they will be foregone for the 2022-2023 school year.
MHS paraeducator Chris Matney joins a student during a festive cookie decorating activity.
“Every year that I’ve been here, in the paraprofessional realm, we’ve probably had 15 to 20 positions that we weren’t able to fill, but we’re now between 40 and 50 positions,” Schutte said. “The staffing shortage has definitely prompted us to take action now versus wait any longer.”
The Paraeducator Bargaining Unit had agreed to the proposal prior to the board approving it. The board approved this unanimously at Monday’s meeting by a 6-0 vote, with Bonnie Lowry absent.
At a previous meeting, board members said that raising wages for paraeducators had been challenging due to federal government funding concerns. Schutte stressed that special education programs needed to be available, and in order for those programs to be successful, they needed to be staffed. Thus, increasing wages is a vital component in making that happen.
“In order to fill those positions with confidence and in order to meet the educational and behavioral needs of our students with disabilities, we’ve just got to find ways to get those positions filled,” Schutte said.
While these costs can be covered with any extra money reserves the school district has, the MCSD is not in that position. In turn, it can force property tax increases to make up the difference.
“We’re a kid-rich, property-poor community,” Schutte said. “We don’t have a lot of industrial infrastructure with which to offset taxes within the community.”
Schutte said the MCSD always tries to be cognizant of those challenges, but the importance of well-paid educators, in this case paraprofessionals, is paramount.
Contact Susanna Meyer at 641-753-6611 or
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