In the spring of 2004, paraeducators in the Burlington public schools began a livable wage campaign to bring all the wages of paraeducators up to a livable level as determined by the Vermont Joint Fiscal Office (JFO). Currently, the livable wage for a single person with no children is $12.02/hour ($25,000/annual) in an urban area. Currently all municipal workers for the City of Burlington earn the livable wage as calculated by the JFO as mandated by a city livable wage ordinance. School workers are not covered by this ordinance.
During the 2004-5 academic year, the Burlington Paraeducator Livable Wage Campaign has organized several paraeducators to speak to the Burlington School Board during the public comment period to educate school board members on their important work in the schools and their wage/compensation levels. This spring the Campaign has expanded its efforts to begin educating the community on the importance of paying school workers a livable wage.
On May 10th over 20 community supporters gathered for adawnsinger "honk and wave" prior to the May school board meeting. Many of these supporters then testified during the public comment period in support of livable wages for all school workers. The school board held a preliminary discussion of the issue at its May finance committee meeting.
On June 14th another 20 community members, state representatives, school parents, and paraeducators gathered for another "honk and wave" to continue to put pressure on the school board prior to their June meeting. Several community members spoke in support of paying paraeducators a livable wage including two parents of special needs children who work one-on-one with paraeducators, two local faith leaders, a city council member, and a state representative from Burlington.
On November 8th, the Burlington school board voted down the livable wage resolution (7 to 5) to philosophically commit to paying all school workers a livable wage. In August the school board set "increasing the wages of the lowest paid school workers" as a priority for 2006 yet the board refused to pass a formal statement of values on livable wage. More than 50 community members, parents, paraeducators, school cafeteria workers, and local leaders testified in support of the resolution.
In 2006, the school board started to focus on teacher contract negotiations and preparing for negotiations with paraedcuators in the fall of 2006. The Burlington Livable Wage Campaign decided to diversify our work and include ALL school support staff who were making less than a livable wage. We expanded to include food service workers and the few custodian workers who make slightly less than a livable wage.
In early 2006, focused its efforts from January to March on passing the Burlington School Budget. The main objective was to maintain quality schools and quality staff for our schools. The 2007 school budget did not include livable wages for all school staff and it also contained other problems due to level funding and cut backs. However, we are pleased that Burlington voters supported the budget. Since the budget has passed this year, it is more likely the community will support a slightly larger budget next year that will include livable wages for all school support staff. We designed and distributed to voters in several Wards in Burlington.
We also conducted a livable wage survey for all city candidates to ask how all candidates for local leadership felt about supporting livable wages for all city workers of Burlington.