More than 30 teachers’ aides in Jefferson Co. told they need more qualifications to keep their jobs

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 10:03 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 7, 2023 at 9:27 AM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The Central Alabama American Federation of Teachers says they are getting reports of more than 30 teachers’ aides in Jefferson County Schools being told by their administration that they need new qualifications to meet a federal requirement to keep their jobs.

Local AFT President Erika Hughes said she started getting calls last week from paraprofessionals, or teachers’ aides in Jefferson County Schools, who said they are being called in and told they now need college credit or to pass an assessment test to keep their job.

“Paraprofessionals reached out to us,” Hughes said. “They were called in on Friday and told by their administration in order to be an instructional paraprofessional, they have to have 48 hours of college credit or take the work test, which consists of a reading, writing, math assessment. On the math, it is very detailed to where they will have to have a formula sheet to support it.”

Hughes said it’s not just new aides, but some of these employees have been around for decades.

“We have members that have been there 15 to 20 years and are now being told they have to take this,” she said.

Hughes said this is actually a federal requirement from 2004 that is just now trickling down into the districts. She said so far, they have heard from 31 teachers’ aides, but she thinks there are more to come.

“We do have a teacher shortage and these paraprofessionals are stepping in and covering classes, pulling more workload than ever before, and now we are calling them in to tell them, on their own time, they will have to take these assessments,” said Hughes.

“If you’re labeled as an instructional paraprofessional at a Title One school, then these qualifications have to be met,” Hughes said.

Hughes believes current teacher’s aides should be grandfathered in and only new hires should need to meet the requirements. She said they will likely have to take this issue to their national chapter to help fight.

“They are going to be studying at night and on the weekends, all which they are not paid for, in order to keep a job that they have had for 20 plus years,” she said. “This is a huge burden for them.”

Hughes said the aides haven’t received a deadline yet, but she worries about the content of the test. Hughes said paraprofessionals help support teachers and students, but aren’t in charge of direct lesson planning. She said often they teach life skills.

“They didn’t sign up for this,” Hughes said. “The test is designed, from the website, for a teacher. They are not the teacher.”

Dr. Walter Gonsoulin, Superintendent of Jefferson County Schools released this statement:

“Our paraprofessionals are an integral part of the JEFCOED family and provide a valuable service to our students.  We want to help all of them to meet the necessary requirements and are committed to providing opportunities for them to do so.”

Get news alerts in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store or subscribe to our email newsletter here.