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When Strikes Happen, Teachers’ Aides Have the Most to Lose

The national spotlight on the strikes and walkouts this spring has been on the teachers themselves. But in the shadows was another group that’s just as critical for keeping schools running: support staff.

Often overlooked in the broader public discourse, these workers, including instructional aides and paraprofessionals, sometimes had more at stake in the walkouts than full-time teachers. When schools were closed, many didn’t get paid.

The goals of much of the teacher activism this spring—higher wages, more school funding—are shared by support employees, especially paraprofessional educators. Those workers, who do not all have college degrees, are working directly with students, side-by-side with the teachers. They give individual attention to students, many of whom have special needs. In states with ballooning class sizes and fewer resources, the paraeducators help keep the classroom running smoothly.