One of CSEA’s tops priorities is instituting a series of legislative reforms to improve the careers of paraprofessionals. Among the reform ideas that have been discussed are developing a career ladder and mentoring program for paras, and conducting a comparable pay pilot study to look at pay rates for paras in Connecticut and nearby states. At the start of this session of the General Assembly, Tim Riddle, our Para Council president, and Danny Medress, CSEA’s political director, met with the co-chairs of the Education Committee. Any piece of legislation having to do with education must pass through this committee, so, we wanted to make sure the co-chairs understood and supported our issues. During the meeting, the co-chairs – Senator Andrea Stillman and Representative Andrew Fleischmann – expressed deep support for paras and agreed to work with us to put together and pass a package of legislation to reform and improve the careers of paras. The current session of the General Assembly is focused on passing Connecticut’s budget – a process that tends to suck up all the oxygen – so we will be working with other para unions and legislators to put together a reform package that can run during next year’s General Assembly session.
Which is not to say that we are sitting on the sidelines waiting for next year. In the current session of the General Assembly, there is a bill that would improve the composition of the School Paraprofessional Advisory Council. Currently, the Advisory Council is not composed of a majority of paraprofessionals – CSEA’s own, Bill Walkauskas, is now a member of the Advisory Council. House Bill 6502 fixes that problem by providing a majority of seats to paras. This piece of legislation passed unanimously out of the Education Committee last week.
FMLA For Para’s Update
After fighting for years to win Family and Medical Leave Act rights for paraprofessionals, it is frustrating that it has taken so long to finalize the needed regulations. However, Connecticut has a thorough regulatory review process, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) completed the regulations and, pursuant to Connecticut’s regulatory approval process, sent them to the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) for review. OPM reviewed the regulations and made a series of changes and suggestions. DOL is currently integrating those changes into the regulations and will soon be sending the updated regulations to the Governor’s office for sign off. After the Governor’s office signs off on the regulations, they will be sent back to the DOL to be published in the Connecticut Law Journal. Once published in the Connecticut Law Journal, the public will have 30 days to comment on the regulations. After the public comment period has closed and DOL has responded to each and every comment, DOL will send them to the Attorney General’s office. After the Attorney General’s office signs off on the regulations, they will be sent to the General Assembly’s Regulations Review Committee. The Regulations Review Committee must approve or reject the regulations within 60 days. With this timeline in mind, it looks like the FMLA for paraprofessionals regulations will be in place by July.