DeKalb School Assistants Picket for Third Day

DFSA Picketers

Members of the DeKalb Federation of School Assistants (DFSA) and supporters picketed outside the District 428 Education Center for the third day this week on Friday evening.

As their union representatives negotiated a new contract inside the district office on South Fourth Street, the school assistants stood outside in a light drizzle, holding signs and chanting for “a livable wage, equal training, and professional treatment.”

“[We expect] to be treated like the professionals that we are,” said Bettina Ball of Rochelle, who is a teaching assistant at Dekalb High School. “We’re not just moms out there working at the schools anymore; we’re actually professionals who are hired to do a job. We’re working with kids, handling things, doing lessons every day.”DFSA Picketers

There were also teachers holding signs and chanting in support of the assistants, and Ball said that they know they have a lot of people behind them, including all of the different unions in the district. She said they would remain out there Friday night until their negotiating team tells them to go home.

“They’re in there working really hard for us and we appreciate everything they’re doing,” said Ball. “They’re in there for hours, till nine o’clock at night sometimes.”

Ball said if things don’t go right tonight, they will be out there picketing in front of 901 S. Fourth Street as many days as they need in order to get people’s attention.

DFSA Picketers
In 2014, when they signed their last contract, DFSA represented 229 District 428 employees, including health, security, teaching and office assistants. The salaries of those employees accounted for about 7% of the district’s budget at the time.

Earlier this month, the district announced that they would be receiving an additional $2.8 million in funding from the state because of the new school funding formula. This created a $2.4 million operating surplus, based on the current budget.

Update: The District 428 School Board and DFSA reached a tentative agreement Friday night. Details of the agreement have not yet been released.


  1. Taxes have always been or supposed to, be to cover Public Education! 70 years ago my parents paid taxes and 5 of us Chamberlains Got the best education! We were blessed. And in a very special place! We have seen many changes in all these years but never have complained about supporting the education of our children. These people “paras’ are part and parcel of any good school district! Go Amanda Marie Riego and all her co-workers!

  2. I’d love to see how your schools run without Paras and anyone feeling the “it’s an entry level job, they should go get a different one” can suck it. You might get some great Paras who just love these kids, but you also might be getting what you pay for.

  3. Are you including in the cost of your benefits in your base salary; if not you should be as well as any others benefits received. Furthermore, if you believe your taxes are high, do you realize why that is?? If you reside within the district you teach or work as a para, you are contributing toward your wages/benefits. So the more you want in wages, then ultimately it will be reflected in taxes. This applies to anyone that receives compensation from a source that is supported/funded by taxes.

  4. Greedy?!? Do you have any idea what they get paid here?? Even with a degree full time salary is approx $12,000 annually! Could you support a family on that income? Think of how many are single parents, working with and for YOUR children every single day. There are classroom assistants, media assistants, health assistants (aka nurses), reading specialists, special education assistants, and so many more. These individuals are there with your littles every single day, supporting them in the schools, and you think asking for more than $12k a year is greedy? Absolutely not.

    • Allison Peters they already earn a suitable wage for their position. It’s entry level and requires minimal education and experience. Anyone with an Associates that can pass the exam can become an aide. Being a substitute teacher requires more education.

    • Amy Fontana that’s great. They do a good job. They still are not a lead teacher. Until a few years ago, they weren’t even required to be licensed. Everything you just described to me sounds like a babysitter. Also, if they aren’t armed and trained in how to provide true security, they don’t provide security. They observe. If they are trained in true security, why does the school need security on staff?

    • Trevor A Elliott, maybe your babysitter helped teach you to read, but mine did not. The security assistants are the ones breaking up fights, keeping kids out of places they don’t belong, etc. There is ONE SRO at DHS and one split between the middle schools (I believe?)…the assistants provide what day to day security we have.

    • I work for a private company that has a comparable position and the starting pay is around $30,000 for full time. Even if you take out the summer months that would still be way more than a paraprofessional is making. I believe the difference is about $8 hourly.

    • Amy Fontana my mistake. You are correct, they’ve always been required to have a license but have not always been required to have a degree. Also, when I was in school, teacher did all of the tasks you listed and they still do those things in a lot of schools. Why do teachers today earn so much more but are expected to do less? We didn’t have all of these aides. Special needs children had aides.

    • Trevor A Elliott teachers don’t have aides unless they have students with special needs. There is no one in my classroom most of the time this year but me. Last year I had more students who had assistant minutes. Maybe you’d be surprised at how few classrooms have no children with IEP minutes? I’d be shocked if there were 5 classrooms in all the elementary schools.

      As for the other things I mentioned, my teachers did not supervise lunch and recess because that’s when they ate. We had like one HS security guard (miss that John Duback). Teachers and reading specialists provided literacy interventions from what I recall, but then, the district realized they could hire fewer teachers and pay assistants peanuts to provide some of the interventions as long as teachers planned and assessed for those small groups.

      School is very different from when I was a kid (I don’t presume to know your age, so it may or may not be different from your days…) School is very different from when I started teaching, in fact.

    • I agree that some are. I know some teachers that really can’t stand their jobs, but they’ve been there for 30 years and are tenured and make a lot of money, so they are safe to treat the kids like they don’t matter. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

    • Amy Fontana whatever happened to John? He was a great guy. Started a military club for the HS. If what you describe is true, then my argument would be that we need to use the surplus to hire more specialists/interventionists and maybe let some of the aides go.

    • One other thing…while I think teacher salaries need to keep up with inflation, I’m tired of the “greedy teacher” narrative.

      Last time we negotiated, we ended up with a -1%, 0%, 0% base “increase” in our contract for three years. This was after a freeze for one year in our previous contract. In that time, the districts’ fund balance has grown by 50%. Most of us just want our salaries to keep up with inflation.

      The “selfish” stuff most of us really wanted last round were things like class size caps, to improve education for the kids in our community, and for those of us who live and work here to be able to continue the past practice that had gone on FOREVER for us to bring our kids to the schools where we teach, so we could participate in school events as teachers and parents and not have to miss things like our own child’s open house because we were at school.

      We don’t want to lose the benefits we currently have, either…would you?

      I get that education is expensive. Our taxes suck. I pay them too. But our kids and community are worth it.

      And in the case of our paras, the real point of this article, they DO deserve a living wage. They work full time, doing a taxing job many people couldn’t do. And they do it well.

    • Amy Fontana average teacher pay is $70,000 per year (actually, I think it’s actually closer to 68 but I rounded up because I’m lazy). If you were earning that, I’d be fine with that. I also believe that teachers/administrators shouldn’t be compensated for degrees they aren’t using. So, if a classroom teacher earned a masters but remained a classroom teacher assuming no additional responsibility, they shouldn’t be compensated for the degree. No teacher should be compensated for a PhD without assuming an administrator role. No teacher should have a six figure salary or pension. Maybe if they taught for 40 years. I also don’t agree with pension spiking.

    • Trevor A Elliott do u know what they do? Have you shadowed a para? Have you ? Cuz I have . I’m a special ed teacher in our district and my assistants are some the hardest working individuals. What they do absolutely deserve more than 12,000. They are not just walking a classroom looking over childrens shoulders making sure they are following in their text.. these are kiddos who have medical needs, who can not walk w out assistants, who can not hold a pencil without having the help of an aid, kiddos with behavioral concerns, non verbal, incontinent, kiddos who have to be seen by a nurse multiple times a day… without my assistant I could not do my job!! My job is teach and trust me.. I dont just stand at a board while they do their work either. It takes every single one of us to give these kids the best educational experience that they can possibly get. To treat them with respect, and include them with their peers as much as physically possible. This is about the kids!! It may seem all about money, but it’s way more than that. Not supporting assistants is like not supporting our kids with special needs..

    • I don’t work for Dekalb but I am a paraprofessional. I get paid less than $20,000/year after taxes. Would you be okay with making that amount of money when your job entails being hit, bit, punched, scratched, and kicked daily? I wouldn’t trade it for the world because I love the kids, but I think our job duties earn us a little more than that. Please educate yourself.

    • Trevor A Elliott I think I’m at 67,000-ish so I guess I’m safe. My masters degrees are in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (so…what I do all day every day) and Literacy in Content Area instruction (again…that’s reading in science and ss, I do that too.) Not all degrees lead to admin certification. Some of us like to teach. A reading specialist at Founders has an Ed D in Reading and Bilingual Education…she uses it daily and it has nothing to do with admin.

      We’ll agree to disagree on 100,000 mark. The only way to get there in 428 is to max out on years, Education, and have some additional stipends (meaning extra duty, coaching, etc.)…that number doesn’t appear on our salary schedule. But I think someone working as a teacher their full 35 years should be able to get there.

      Pension spiking is a thing of the past, thanks to new state laws. I only wish I could’ve retired right after I started, when people were getting 20% bumps right before they left, haha.

    • I think we need to be careful with our numbers. Does the average teacher make 70k? I don’t think so. Are administrator’s wages included in that average? What’s the median wage of an actual classroom teacher? I think that gives a better idea. Time to go pull the stats. 😁

    • I’ve been pushed, pinched, punched, smacked, scratched, kicked, bitten, spit on, had my hair pulled out, had chairs thrown at me and multiple other objects… The list goes on and on; with that being said, I love my job and I love the kids. Most of the time these kids are in crisis and have no other way to communicate. It’s up to us to try to help them in these times of crisis and put the puzzle together as to why they might be in that state of crisis all while trying to educate them. And believe it or not we are educated people working as professionals. We need a license and/or a degree to do our job. We go to multiple trainings per year to further our education on how to better serve our students, your children! Please educate yourself and know what your talking about before you try to have a discussion with people about your opinion.

    • Trevor A Elliott , I think you owe those paras and teachers you say you’re related to a profound apology for accusations of greed and your allusion to babysitting. That just reveals a total lack of understanding of how educators work. Your lack of respect for the critically important roles they play makes their jobs even harder. “Overpaid”? No. Not even close. (But if you think the pay is so much higher than what the work merits, I’m surprised you’re not clamoring for one of those cushy jobs). 😆

    • Troy Stocker
      The article is about teacher’s assistants, who get roughly minimum wage for the hours they put in. Whether or not they work in the summer is irrelevant.

      In fact, from the district school calendar, there are 180 days of teacher attendance (not counting any work they put in before the school year or over winter break) which is roughly 8.6 months. Including prep time before the school year, easily 9 months.

    • That’s pretty harsh! Amy Fontana, and ALL teachers work extremely hard for YOUR children! Where would any single person be without their teachers?!? It is far from part time work. Yes, they have summers off. Most jobs provide 1-4 weeks of paid vacation. During the summer months these teachers are planning for the upcoming school year, buying and stocking up on supplies, continuing education, and much more.

    • Gelaine Gushi much of DeKalb. We’re something like 60% low income now…more than that in some schools. Most elementary teachers I know spend at least $1,000/year. Some middle and HS teachers as well. My school gave us a budget of $100 for everything we need for our classrooms.

    • Pretty interesting how people seem to “know it all” as they sit back on their tractor and read the daily chronicle. Trevor, I grew up with you and I’m surprised at what you think hard working people like my sister should make. She has a master’s as well and she busts her ass every day. She is well respected and deserves more pay than what she receives. I think that mowing lawns is a lot less demanding than teaching. We DEFINITELY need to discuss how much you’re getting paid, because I think it may be too much…

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