Education Support Professionals (ESP) are an essential part of every school. They safely transport our children to school, keep our schools clean and safe, maintain student records, care for our students when they are ill, assist teachers in daily classroom activities, prepare and serve healthy meals to students, and ensure our children get home safely after school. These valuable ESP are dedicated to public education and extremely loyal to their school systems. They deserve to have their loyalty and hard work rewarded properly. It is necessary for the Georgia General Assembly and the Governor to address the issues our ESP face. ESP are dedicated public school employees who have been under-paid and under-appreciated for too long.
GAE has always pushed for a base salary for each job classification, for salary increases, benefits and incentives, annual employment contracts, as well as increasing PSERS benefits for ESP. In addition to these issues, ESP are also plagued with issues dealing with the safety of themselves and their students. In 2002 GAE sponsored legislation that created guidelines for greater school bus safety and the ability for ESP to enforce codes of conduct. With the help of Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor, we were successful in the passage of this legislation that provides ESP authority to discipline students and to make our school buses safer for drivers and students. Some of the provisions of the legislation were:
· Established student disciplinary standards and procedures;
· Established guidelines and consequences for verbal or physical assaults against all school employees;
· Established a student Code of Conduct to include: no use of electronic devices that would interfere with the bus driver’s communication devices and no mirrors or reflective items that can interfere with the drivers sight; and
· Requirement for parents and students to sign and affirm receipt of bus safety rules and code of conduct.
GAE fought to have a more comprehensive school bus safety act adopted but were unsuccessful due to budget restraints. We were successful, however, in the passage of a resolution to create a study committee that will look at all the concerns faced by our dedicated bus drivers, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, custodians, office assistants, and other ESP. Some of the issues GAE is fighting to address for all ESP are:
· Establishing maximum seating capacity (3 elementary students per seat & 2 middle/high school students per seat);
· Providing bus drivers with critical student information, including student and parent names, addresses, and medical needs;
· Establishing uniform equipment requirements for buses, including air conditioning, automatic mirror defrosters, first aid kits, and protective gloves;
· Establishing standards for use and custody of bus video cameras and tapes (internal/external cameras);
· Establishing uniform statewide and local training requirements for bus drivers and monitors including first aid training;
· Establishing non-retaliation for bus drivers from disciplinary action for good faith reporting and enforcement of state laws and local policies;
· Establishing a statewide salary schedule for all job classifications and providing contracts for all ESP;
· Increasing retirement benefits for TRS and PSERS members; and
· Providing incentives for ESP to earn teaching degrees.
GAE is the only organization advocating for improvements for all public school employees to be empowered in their classrooms, school buses, offices, and schools