Don't Cut The Paras.


Manchester Mayor Gatsas has outlined various areas in the Manchester School System that will reduce expenses and more importantly, avert a tax increase that will be borne by the residents of Manchester.

The list appears in the Union Leader and it moves across many zones in the overall budget in everything ranging from eliminating position(s); to healthcare and specific educational programs, like computers and textbooks. One thing is certain: all of the proposals will cause pain and have an impact in the long run.

But the one area I think that needs some closer scrutiny is the idea to eliminate 200 para professionals and replace them with certified teachers thus saving $1.5 million dollars. This is flawed from the start and I’d question whether it could even happen. A para-professional is a teacher’s assistant that focuses on special needs students which is an ever increasing statistic in the schools. Special needs like autism, attention deficit disorder, asberger’s syndrome and the list continues on. Para professionals for the most part are paid less than a regular teacher; but a have a workload that is basically the same as a regular teacher. I don’t see how the Manchester School District can eliminate 200 paras and replace them with regular teachers and expect to save any money. If anything, I think the Manchester School District will need to hire another 25 para professionals just to keep pace with the dynamics of the student population which require these services.

There might be a question as to why the special needs student population is increasing, this is a hard question but it’s a real one. I don't have the answer to this but I’ll forecast what will happen if these paras are eliminated. First, they won’t be replaced because a state certified teacher isn’t going to work for these wages. Second, statistics such as adequate yearly progress will suffer and decline as the already overworked classroom teacher is forced to divert resources away from lesson plans towards the students that were served by the now absent para- professional. Lastly, the district and its taxpayers will suffer when the statistics continue to decline thus setting off circuit breakers established by the No Child Left Behind Legislation.

Cut something else besides the paras.