Nat Kerman

For months, paraprofessional union leaders have been expressing their dissatisfaction with ongoing negotiations over a contract with New Haven Public Schools.

Local 3429, a union representing over 400 school paraprofessionals and others employed by New Haven Public Schools, finished negotiating a contract with NHPS in July. The contract, which is up for a Board of Alders vote on Monday, includes general wage increases for the paraprofessionals and step movements — which are salary raises based on experience — spread from 2020 through 2023. However, Local 3429 President Hyclis Williams told the News that the union did not get all it wanted in the negotiations.

“We are very low paid,” Hyclis said. “[We are] not making living wages.”

According to New Haven Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Michael Pinto, who presented at the Board of Alders Finance Committee last Thursday, wage increases outlined in the contract will cost an additional $1,199, 696 — a 10.3 percent increase on current compensation spending. 

New Haven Public School Advocate Sarah Miller ’03 who helped in amplifying Local 3429’s demands in pushing for higher wages, stated that getting paraprofessionals higher wages has been a long fight.

At a minimum, Miller said that the contract should have given paraprofessionals retroactive pay increases for the time period that they did not have a contract and said that their extra duty pay rate — which includes all before and after-school programs and summer learning — of $14.50 was not enough. According to Miller, the Board of Education also did not address hazard pay in their contract — which she said paraprofessionals were entitled to due to the health risks of COVID-19 when schools reopen.

“It’s tough because [wage increases] costs money,” Miller said. “But there’s a strong case for doing this, it’s just the right thing to do.”

While Hyclis told the News she and the rest of the union hope the Board of Alders passes the contract, she emphasized that its stipulations were not satisfactory.

According to Hyclis and Miller, the onus was not on the Board of Alders to change the details of the contract. Both said that the Board of Education would need to act on adjusting its terms. The two told the News that the Board of Education had already set up a Pay Equity Committee to investigate inequities in paraprofessional pay in the city — but Hyclis and Miller said they suspected that the Board of Education was nevertheless unlikely to change the contract.

New Haven Public Schools Chief Financial Officer Philip Penn, when asked why paraprofessional wages in the contract were not higher, said that the Board of Education did not set the wages.

“They are negotiated between both parties as part of the collective bargaining process,” Penn told the News.

Other contract terms, Pinto explained to the Finance Committee last Thursday, include a limit on health premium increases to 2 percent over four years, an educational incentive that encourages paraprofessionals to take college semester credits with reimbursements and additional stipends for paraprofessionals who also have roles as substitute teachers.

The Finance Committee did not take any action on the terms of the contract — allowing it to move to a vote by the Board of Alders. The chair of the Finance Committee, Ward 24 Alder Evette Hamilton, wrote a letter to the Board of Alders leadership asking them to consider the contract in their next meeting.The Finance Committee itself did not vote on the merits of the contract — likely in order to accelerate the administrative process. There were no citizens present for the public hearings.

The next Board of Alders meeting is Oct. 19 at 7 p.m.

Alvaro Perpuly | alvaro.perpuly@yale.edu