Include Education Support Professionals in Pandemic Bonus Checks for Educators

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NOTE: By signing this petition, an email will be sent to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis with the text below in your name. 

Dear Governor Ron DeSantis,

We are the Paraprofessionals that beat the odds and taught first graders to read over zoom.

We are the Transcription Assistants for the Visually Impaired that ensured that all students could continue learning in a remote environment. 

We are the Certified Nursing Assistants that implemented COVID safety plans with limited resources.

We are the Bilingual Specialists that came up with innovative lessons to teach students about the global impacts of the pandemic and articulate their work in multiple languages. 

We are the Exceptional Student Education (ESE) Associates that worked with our highest need students this year knowing that keeping a six-foot distance would be nearly impossible.

And we were left out of your proposal to compensate educators for the extra work, the hazardous conditions, and the personal sacrifices all educators endured this year to meet the needs of our students and communities. 

Education Support Professionals are a broad classification of school workers that includes bus drivers, teachers’ assistants, cafeteria workers, custodial staff, front office clerks and many more. We are often directly involved in the education of students - we design lessons that liberate their thinking, establish relationships that build confidence and purpose, and provide the individualized support they need to grow as learners and well-rounded people. More often than not, we are the educators that grew up in the neighborhoods where we work and that look like the students and communities we serve. We speak their languages, share in their struggles, and attend their community gathering spaces. We do so much more than “support” - we are an invaluable bridge between school and community and foundational to creating culturally-responsive, inviting, and safe learning spaces for students. 

For far too long, we have been in the shadows. We value the dedication of our colleagues that claim “teacher” as their official title, but object to being cast as accessories to their leading roles. We are specialized workers with distinct skill sets that are vital to the functioning of our schools.  

When you, Governor DeSantis, left us out of the compensatory bonus checks, it stung.  It was a reminder of the second-class status we continue to hold in the minds of certain leaders and communities.  Teachers are important. Principals are important.  We all play critical roles in the education and development of our students. But Education Support Professionals are done being in the shadows.  We are done being overlooked, underrecognized, and underpaid. We matter.

All educators have gone above and beyond and into their own pockets to ensure students’ needs have been met this year.  We are asking you to give us our due respect and provide us the bonus pay we have earned. While we hold that our professional associations and unions should be able to negotiate matters of wages directly with our districts, we also recognize that the moment calls for bold policy decisions that benefit educators from across our state. 

This year you sent us to work. Now we are giving you an assignment.  Governor DeSantis, recognize the outstanding work of all educators this year by including Education Support Professionals in your recommendation for earned bonuses to the Florida legislature. 

Sincerely, 

The undersigned Education Support Professionals and those in solidarity with them. 

P.S. The day you made the announcement about the bonus checks, Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said the governor's proposal is “just one way” to show appreciation for educators this year. We agree.  We think we should be able to keep our pensions, freely assemble in professional associations and unions, and secure the funding for the schools our students deserve, if you are looking for more ideas.