Educators, Mostly Women, Feel Left Out of Education Debate
Rutgers Study Finds Teachers, Paraeducatorss Believe Their Voices Aren’t Heard in Montpelier
MONTPELIER – As the governor talks of eliminating 4,100 public school jobs, women educators – who would bear the brunt of the layoffs – believe their “voice on the job was being put in jeopardy by men in Montpelier,” according to a Rutgers University report released to lawmakers today.
The report -- “Women’s Work? Voices of Vermont’s Educators” – relied on a survey of over 1,100 Vermont educators, and interviews with teachers and education support professionals across the state. The Rutgers researchers found a workforce overwhelmingly made up of women who feel left out of the debates over education policy in Montpelier.
“To that end, it is imperative to hear their voices,” the researchers – Rebecca Kolins Givan and Pamela Whitefield – wrote. “As one teacher put it, ‘there are more men in the political sphere. Our profession is mostly made up of women, but all of these men are making decisions about our lives, and they really don’t understand our reality.’”
The report details that reality. Among the key findings:
- Over three quarters of Vermont’s educators are women, including 75 percent of teachers and 87 percent of paraeducators.
- Nearly 40 percent of paraeducators are the primary earners in their household, but fewer than one-in-three paraprofessionals can survive on this income alone.
- In Vermont, teachers are paid only 87 percent of the typical salary of other professionals with the same level of education.
- Educators are experiencing high levels of workplace violence and threats of violence. Almost one out of eight teachers say they have been physically attacked by a student in the past year. Nearly a quarter of paraprofessionals reports having been physically attacked in the last year.
- Sixty percent of educators said they knew of a family in the school where they work who had experienced foreclosure or eviction in the past year. One quarter of educators reported knowing a family in their school who had faced bankruptcy in the past year.
- Nearly 70 percent of educators say they know a family in their school that has been affected by opioid addiction in the past year.
- Ninety-nine percent of educators say they spend their own money on classroom supplies with a third spending more than $500 a year. Eighty percent also spend money helping students in need.
“The educators at the core of Vermont’s excellent school system are under increasing pressure,” the researchers wrote. “While Vermont’s children are still receiving a high-quality education, the system increasingly depends on staff who take on second jobs, dip into their own pockets to help their students.”
The researchers also reported that educators believe things would be different if it weren’t a female-dominated profession. “In our interviews and our survey results, we consistently observed educators’ frustration that their voice on the job was being put in jeopardy by men (as they saw it) in Montpelier, who did not understand how hard educators are working and how much financial stress they endure.”
The research was conducted by the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Givan, an associate professor of labor students and employment relations, will present her findings today and tomorrow to several House and Senate committees. Whitefield, a doctoral candidate at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center, lives in White River Junction. You can read the report here.
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