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District Moves to Expedite Negotiations with Paraprofessionals Union

|   City News

Springfield Public Schools will seek a neutral third party to serve as mediator of collective bargaining negotiations between the district and the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals in hopes of soon reaching a fair and responsible contract for paraprofessionals, the district’s Labor Counsel and Chief Negotiator Sean Sweeney said today.

The decision comes on the heels of lengthy negotiations between the district and the union, which have resulted in an impasse linked directly to wages.

Sweeney said the recent claim by the union that the district only offered a two percent wage increase is “simply untrue.”

“The district placed an offer on the table that is significantly more than two percent and to say otherwise is disingenuous and misleading at best,” said Sweeney. “The truth is the value of the deal the district placed on the table would yield paraprofessionals an average increase of 15 percent over four years. Not only that, but the deal offered is actually thirty percent higher than the hourly living wage, according to the union’s own source of reference, which is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Living Wage Calculator.”

Sweeney said the current wage demand placed on the table by the Springfield Federation of Paraprofessionals totals an increase of 37 percent or $6.9 million over the next four years.  

“The district could not in good conscience agree to such a fiscally irresponsible and unsustainable contract,” said Sweeney.

Though the union’s current demand represents a decrease from the original 70 to 80 percent increase sought in early negotiations, the district’s agreement with the current demand would necessitate the need to make damaging budget cuts to other educational expenses, Sweeney said.

“I want to be very clear that the school district places a great deal of value and respect on the work of paraprofessionals,” said Sweeney. “However, Springfield Public Schools cannot operate with tunnel vision. The district always seeks to negotiate contracts that are both fair and in the best interest of the entire system and the contract with paraprofessionals can be no exception.”

Geared heavily towards veteran paraprofessionals, the union’s latest proposal includes salary increases ranging from 33 to 95 percent for paraprofessionals at the top of the pay scale, a raise that would place their compensation package close to the rate of teachers.

Sweeney pointed out that the district has several initiatives to underwrite educational expenses and provide teacher licensure support for paraprofessionals who seek to become teachers.

“The district has the best interests of students and staff in mind and has put forth a competitive contract offer to the union that is fair to paraprofessionals at every level,” said Sweeney.

He added also that the results of a recent study showed that the Springfield Public Schools offer for paraprofessionals would pay them at a rate that is higher than paraprofessional pay rates in many surrounding areas.

“I am hopeful that a third-party mediator will help the two parties align their priorities in a way that meets the needs of all involved,” said Sweeney.

Page last updated:  Tuesday, March 1, 2022 01:32 pm