School Support Staff Are Underpaid

Photo credit: ThoseGuys119, CC BY 2.0.

To continue this morning’s discussion of long-term wage stagnation, we go to the Washington Post:

Concerns about teacher pay are nothing new. But there’s an emerging battlefront over schoolhouse salaries, and it involves compensation for the employees who play supporting roles in schools — the teaching assistants, bookkeepers, bus drivers and custodians who shepherd students to class, care for them in classrooms and clean up after them.

All for less than $30K a year, at least in the “wealthy suburb” school district the Washington Post references.

I’m not necessarily surprised that these support roles are low-paid — we live in a culture that doesn’t tend to value support roles — but this part of the piece felt a little surprising:

When Karen Tyrrell, a technology assistant at Belmont Ridge Middle School, started in Loudoun schools more than a dozen years ago, support positions tended to be filled by people looking for a second job that would help pay for summer vacations and other extras.

Over time, the paychecks became indispensable. “With the cost of living in Loudoun County and just the cost of living in general . . . it’s become a necessary and expected income,” Tyrrell said.

First of all, that acknowledges that school support positions were never designed to pay people enough to live on. Second of all, I’m pretty sure those paychecks were indispensable even when people were using them to pay for “extras.” Otherwise, they wouldn’t have taken the jobs. (Also, summer vacation is kind of a mandatory thing, whether or not you take an actual trip. When your kids are out of school, you have to find somewhere for them to go, and camps/daycares/etc. all cost money.)

Maybe the better way of phrasing it would be “more than a dozen years ago, people were able to use their support staff income to buy extras for their families; now, even in a household with two incomes, everything goes towards necessities.”

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