State unveils plan to address paraeducator shortage

State unveils plan to address paraeducator shortage
Published: Sep. 5, 2023 at 6:49 PM EDT
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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Kids are back at school, but there are a few challenges.

There is a teacher shortage and Connecticut is now recruiting teachers from neighboring states, but the situation with paraeducators is worse.

This plan could help.

“They mean the most to the kids who need the most,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

To attract more teachers, there is an apprenticeship program, and the state is making it easier for teachers in neighboring states to get certified to teach in Connecticut.

The shortage of paraeducators is one of the worst ever. This school year is starting with a shortage of about 1,300.

“We need you more than ever right now,” said Gov. Ned Lamont.

A new plan unveiled at Rawson Elementary in Hartford will help paraeducators pay for health insurance.

“I know it’s the salary that’s keeping people away. In Hartford it’s $27,000 coming in,” said Shellye Davis, Hartford paraeducator.

Davis said many can’t afford health insurance. The plan is to take $5 million from the state budget to help cover some of the costs.

“I work in a high school so it’s a little bit stressful,” said Cynthia Ross Zweig, New Fairfield paraeducator.

Zweig is also a paraeducator. She said it is a rewarding job because she helps kids succeed but the pay is not there.

“If you think about someone who is making $16 an hour and has to support a lot of children, or a highly needy individual, that stress can become quite overwhelming,” Zweig said.

Hartford has the most paraeducators, but they still don’t have what they need.  This plan would pay for about 80-percent of healthcare costs.