Press Releases

Kuster, Markey Introduce Legislation to Support Recruitment and Retention of Paraeducators in Schools

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) and Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) introduced the Preparing and Retaining All (PARA) Educators Act, legislation that would establish a grant program to help schools recruit, train, and retain paraeducators by funding pipeline and credentialing programs, high-quality professional development, and higher wages.

More than 1.2 million paraeducators provide classroom management support to teachers, work directly with students with disabilities, and provide opportunities for individual or small group learning. Despite their essential contributions to keeping classrooms safe and making learning accessible to all students, these essential educators are often underpaid and given few professional development opportunities, which contributes to high rates of turnover and position vacancies. Pipelines to teaching and other education professions are lacking for paraprofessionals; enrollment numbers in teacher preparation programs in Massachusetts have dropped sharply over the last decade. 

“Instructional assistants, teachers’ aides, special education aides, and other educators who provide support in the classroom are the backbone of our education system,” said Senator Markey. “They keep schools running and students thriving—often with little recognition and low pay. The PARA Educators Act would allow schools to provide these workers with the recognition, compensation, and resources they have long deserved. When we pay educators a living wage and treat them with respect, we invest in our students, schools, and communities.” 

“Every day, in classrooms here in New Hampshire and across the country, paraeducators are working with students to help them receive a high-quality education and thrive in school,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “Yet, these instructional assistants continue to be undervalued and underpaid. This legislation takes meaningful steps to change that and gives these hardworking educators the support they need to stay in the classroom and help students succeed. I’m proud to lead this legislation in the House and encourage my colleagues in both chambers to help get this over the finish line.” 

A copy of the legislation can be found HERE

Cosponsors in the Senate include Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). 

Specifically, the PARA Educators Act would establish a grant program within the Department of Education to support the recruitment and retention of paraprofessionals in public preschool programs, elementary schools, and secondary schools. This legislation would:  

1.      Provide funding to support state and district efforts to recruit and retain paraprofessionals.   

2.      Prioritize high-need rural and urban areas to ensure grant funding is distributed equitably. 

3.      Provide paraprofessionals with access to high-quality professional development programs that will advance in their careers and benefit their students.  

The legislation is endorsed by the National Education Association (NEA), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), School Superintendents Association, Association of Educational Service Agencies (AESA), Council of Administrators of Special Education, National Parent Teacher Association, School Board Association, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Elementary School Principals, National Down Syndrome Congress, Council for Exceptional Children, TeachPlus, National Center for Learning Disabilities, Learning Disabilities Association of America, Autism Society of America, Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA), First Focus Campaign for Children, Autistic Women and Nonbinary Network, Access Ready, The Education Trust, National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), The Arc of the United States, Autism Speaks, California School Employees Association, New Hampshire NEA, New Hampshire Association of Special Education Administrators, New Hampshire School Board Association, New Hampshire Association of School Principals, and Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District (LVJUSD).  

“Paraeducators serve as keystones of our school systems but go without living wages or the necessary professional development to support their instruction and career pathways,” says Dr. Jacqueline Rodriguez, CEO of National Center for Learning Disabilities. “This is a critical profession, and our paraeducators ensure students—especially those with learning disabilities—receive a quality education. NCLD commends Senator Markey for introducing the PARA Educators Act to address these vital issues within the educator workforce.”  

“Our students rely on paraprofessionals every day to help them learn, communicate, meet their basic needs, and thrive in the classroom. These hardworking educators are especially crucial for students who need extra support, including English Language Learners and students with disabilities. Paraprofessionals are essential members of our school communities, and they deserve just compensation and family-supporting benefits just as much as any other educator. The PARA Educators Act would help schools and districts across the nation make paraprofessional work into a sustainable career, so paras can continue to be there to support their students,” said Beth Kontos, President of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts. 

In September 2023, Senator Markey introduced the Green New Deal for Public Schools Act, legislation that would invest $1.6 trillion over the next decade in public and Bureau of Indian Education schools to upgrade every public school building in the country; reduce hazardous pollution; give schools the resources to hire hundreds of thousands of educators, paraprofessionals, and counselors; invest in schools serving low-income students; and fully fund education for students with disabilities. In November 2023, the Senator introduced the Paraprofessional and Education Support Staff Bill of Rights, a resolution that would call for living wages, good benefits, and fair working conditions for the paraprofessionals, classroom assistants, bus drivers, custodial workers, among other education support staff.