Dear Jeffco School Board Members,
As the President of the Jeffco Educational Support Professionals Association (JESPA), I write to you to raise a critical concern that deserves your immediate attention: the allocation of ESSER III funds. It would be a grave misstep to rely on bonuses instead of real compensation increases to address our special education staffing crisis.
I am deeply troubled by the shortsighted reliance on hiring bonuses for Educational Support Professionals (ESPs), like Paraeducators and Transportation staff as a solution to attract and retain talent. This approach has been repeatedly implemented, without real consideration for its failure to meet our staffing needs.
Paraeducators and transportation staff are the lifeblood of our special education programs, tirelessly dedicating themselves to the growth and well-being of our students. Bonuses fall short in acknowledging their value and importance. The urgency of our situation calls for a long-term solution — consistent and competitive pay increases that reflect the dedication of our special education professionals and the people who take them to school and home. One-time bonuses, however well-intentioned, fail to address the systemic issue of inadequate compensation that has sapped our support staff for far too long.
Furthermore, the ongoing experiment of ridesharing for special needs students has, unfortunately, made clear one of the major problems this district faces: staffing. The safety and comfort of our special education community must be a non-negotiable priority, warranting the allocation of ESSER III funds for the restoration of specialized transportation services and away from third party services that cannot provide the same level of service and dedication that a good paying union job in Jeffco does.
Three of you made a commitment when you were elected to stop outsourcing ESP jobs; here is your opportunity to make good on this commitment.
For these reasons and more, I implore the Jeffco school board to:
1. Redirect the ESSER III funds to implement significant and consistent pay increases for Paraeducators and other support staff in special education programs, like Transportation.
2. Prioritize the immediate restoration of specialized transportation services for our special needs students by our Transportation Department.
3. Engage in a sincere and transparent dialogue with the community, acknowledging the failures of past approaches and collaborating on viable solutions.
Our students and education professionals deserve better than superficial solutions that have consistently failed to yield results. I urge you to adopt a more visionary approach that values and nurtures our educators, and in turn, uplifts the quality of education for all.
Seize this pivotal moment to redirect our efforts toward impactful, long-term solutions that genuinely reflect our commitment to education and our community.