School support personnel play vital role, should receive pay during closure

COVID-19 Policy Analysis: As our nation confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, OK Policy will be analyzing state and federal policies that impact our state and its residents during this national health emergency. These posts reflect the most current information available at publication, and we will update or publish follow-ups as new information becomes available.

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While teachers, administrators, and other certified staff will continue to receive pay during the school closure, non-certified support staff only receive pay for the hours they work. Support staff serve as the backbone of schools, and their responsibility to keep schools safe and clean have become even more critical amidst the coronavirus outbreak. 

While custodians, cafeteria workers and maintenance personnel may be needed even while schools are closed, teacher’s aides, bus drivers and other staff may not be able to work their regular hours. Even working full-time support staff wages are barely enough to keep above the federal poverty line, and missing pay can mean not being able to pay bills or put food on the table. States have begun to pass legislation that would guarantee pay to hourly workers during school closures. Support staff should be able to file for unemployment if their hours are cut to zero, but the reduced income would be a significant impact for these important workers. 

We call on lawmakers and the State Department of Education to continue working together to ensure Oklahoma school support employees are paid during school closures. While this is worked into the emergency measure, State Superintendent Hofmeister has urged school districts to liberally dedicate sick leave to support staff. Many districts have already committed to paying support staff through the school closure, but this assurance should be implemented statewide. Districts will receive full state aid during school closures and they will have the funding necessary to compensate support employees. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rebecca Fine joined OK Policy in July 2018 as the education policy analyst. Originally from New York, she began her career in education as an Oklahoma teacher. Rebecca proudly comes from a family of educators, and spent four years teaching middle school in Tulsa and Union Public Schools. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in political science from the University of Rochester and received an M.A. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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