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Myths and Facts About Education Support Professional Pay

MYTH: Education support professionals (ESPs) like cafeteria workers, custodians, security guards, and bus drivers, are "job hoppers" who fill their positions on a temporary basis before getting bored and moving on to the next job.

FACT: ESPs stay with their schools for long periods of time as loyal, dedicated staff members.

  • The average ESP has been on the job for at least 10 years, compared with the astronomical turnover rate in the private industry service sector. (According to Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation”, fast food chains, for example, have turnover rates of 300 to 400 percent.)
  • Because ESPs stay in their positions for years, schools gain from their long-term experience and save the costs of training new staff.

MYTH: Paraeducators (teacher's aides) and other education support professionals are mostly women working only to supplement their husband’s salary, which supports the family.

FACT:  Whether they marry or not, most American women will work an average of 34 years outside the home.

  • As in the rest of the society, many female ESPs are the principal or sole source of support for their families.
  • School support positions are not for “spending money” but are rewarding, challenging careers for women and men alike.

MYTH: Custodial work is unskilled labor.

FACT:  The job of the school custodian goes far beyond emptying trash and mopping floors.

  • By using energy computer systems, many custodians are responsible for controlling heating, ventilation and air conditioning for schools — which are often large, multimillion dollar facilities. Proper operation of the computer is required for regulating indoor air quality and safety for students, which requires training and computer skills.
  • Often custodians must keep track of their own budgets for supplies and help patrol the premises. Whether or not a school district has its own security staff, custodians bear a large responsibility for building security.
  • Custodians are also often in a position to observe student behavior and spot potential problems in settings where there are no teachers.
  • Additionally, there are some students who relate well to custodians, and who will share things with them they will not reveal to teachers.

MYTH: To drive a bus, all you need is a clean driving record and the ability to operate a large vehicle.

FACT:  Bus drivers aren’t truckers.  What trucker has to operate a vehicle while having eyes in the back of his or her head to make sure about 70 children are safe and well-behaved?

  • School bus drivers need a commercial driver's license (CDL) with an "S" endorsement for transporting school children. Every applicant for an "S" endorsement must demonstrate, through a written assessment and road test, knowledge of topics such as passenger loading/unloading, emergency evacuation procedures, railroad crossings, pre-trip inspections, and driving skills appropriate to one of three types of vehicle.
  • In addition, as more students with a variety of physical and behavioral disabilities assimilate into mainstream schools, school bus drivers must learn how to accommodate their special needs.
  • School bus drivers also must be aware of the school system’s rules for discipline and conduct for bus drivers and the students they transport. They receive between 1 and 4 weeks of driving instruction and classroom training on State and local laws, regulations, and policies of operating school buses; safe driving practices; driver-pupil relations; first aid; special needs of disabled and emotionally troubled students; and emergency evacuation procedures.
  • Bus drivers play an important role in students’ school day — they are the first school employees students see in the morning, and the last ones they see at the end of the day. They are also the point of contact for many students' parents.

MYTH: School secretaries are glorified receptionists who answer the phones and greet visitors at the front desk.

FACT: School secretaries assist principals and all school administrators, interact with all school personnel and faculty, and also must be the point of contact for parents and their myriad concerns.

  • The school secretary is often the face of the school, communicating with parents and community members about what's happening at school.
  • He or she takes care of administrative details, schedules appointments with children’s teachers and with the principals, and handles sending out school communications — sometimes even producing school newsletters.
  • The school secretary is the person parents call about such things as registration, bus schedules, school lunches, after-school programs and immunization requirements. When children are sick, it is the school secretary who arranges for the parents to pick them up.
  • Often, it is the school secretary who acts as emergency medical personnel. After cuts in health room staff, it is not unusual for the secretary to be the one to stop a bloody nose, take a temperature, or perform other health room tasks, often without training or safety equipment.