Schlossberg leads discussion on key role paraprofessionals have in Pa. Education services

HARRISBURG, Feb. 18 – The House Democratic Policy Committee and state Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Allentown, hosted a roundtable discussion today on the crucial role paraprofessionals play in student success and what the state can do to support those efforts.

“These professionals help ensure students receive a quality educational experience and have the resources needed to overcome any obstacles or difficulties they are facing. It was an important discussion on how we can better support them at the state level. Today’s hearing further highlighted the need for education dollars to go through a fair and equitable education formula,” Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro said.

Schlossberg added, “Paraprofessionals play an integral role in serving our students and community. They help students living with disabilities, disadvantaged students, those living with homelessness and more overcome those challenges. We have an obligation to provide a quality education for all students and their role in that process is absolutely essential. I look forward to further exploring meaningful ways we can provide the funding and support needed to cultivate future generations of empowered individuals who know they can overcome their challenges, achieve their dreams and make meaningful contributions to their communities."

Roundtable participants included Dr. Lucretia Brown, deputy superintendent at the Allentown School District; Elizabeth Moyer, president of support staff at Parkland School District; Sonia Pitzi, Region 3 coordinator for the Education for Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness program, and Katherine Diorio, director of pupil services at Red Lion School District.

Brown shared that equity remained at the forefront of her district’s considerations for building online learning systems that accommodated all students, especially their neediest, throughout the pandemic. Their paraprofessionals’ starting wage is $10 per hour.

“While wages vary based on districts statewide, we have to do better. We cannot recruit and retain effectively at $10 per hour.”

Diorio shared how her district is regularly losing staff to neighboring districts that can afford to pay more.

“The quality of education and support staff should not be based on Zip codes and local tax bases. There is too much at stake for our children,” Schlossberg said.

Moyer shared changes she has seen as a paraprofessional over more than 20 years, noting how evolving and expanding demands have created a need for additional training to meet student needs.

Pitzi shared how the support and guidance received from paraprofessionals helps students greatly and can help keep them on the right track.

Diorio explained how the relationships paraprofessionals build with students are vital to help remove barriers and establish equities for students.

Schlossberg said he will continue to advocate for fair, equitable education funding that would provide additional resources for paraprofessional training, acquisition and retention. Additionally, he said he will continue to develop the Pennsylvania Grow Our Own Educators Act, which would provide financial assistance and pathways for educators to help support high-need schools in geographic areas that have hard-to-staff teaching positions.

Hearing testimony and full video is available by clicking here.