As funding for school districts tightens — including flat allowable growth, the annual measure of how much state funding can increase — there’s at least one area where education is seeing a boom: paraeducation.
During the 2011-12 school year, the most recent for which statewide data is available, Iowa school districts employed 7,290.23 full-time-equivalent paraeducators, 587.52 more than the previous year, the first in which the Iowa Department of Education collected building-level paraprofessional data.
“If there is an uptick, it could possibly be that districts are just going back and filling positions that they left vacant during the economic downturn,” said Mary Jane Cobb, executive director of the Iowa State Education Association, who noted that she had not seen evidence of higher rates of paraprofessionals throughout the state.
The trend is even playing out on a local level, with the Linn-Mar and College Community school districts, which in 2011-12 both had more full-time-equivalent paraprofessionals on staff than at any time in the past decade.
Is the increasing use of paraprofessionals in Iowa classrooms a good use of public resources?