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HARRISBURG, PA (Feb. 19, 2021) — PSEA President Rich Askey today commended state Rep. Dan Miller (D-Allegheny) for inviting members of the state House to co-sponsor legislation aimed at ensuring that school staff members in Pennsylvania’s public schools continue to receive pay and benefits if they are furloughed because of the impacts of COVID-19.
Rep. Miller’s proposed legislation would make certain that furloughed school staff members, particularly education support professionals, are able to support themselves and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This pandemic has hit so many Pennsylvanians so hard,” Askey said. “We simply can’t allow school staff members — particularly cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodial staff, and other support professionals and their families — to suffer because some of their schools need to close due to the threat of this virus. Rep. Miller’s bill offers the kind of security that support professionals need right now.”
Askey pointed out that support professionals provide Pennsylvania’s students with essential supports and services, from offering healthy meals and keeping buildings clean and safe, to transporting them back and forth from school, to offering classroom supports. Support professionals are often the backbone of public schools and aim to educate and support the whole child by meeting students’ unique needs. They are also the school staff members most likely to be furloughed because their schools have moved to remote or hybrid instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Support professionals are just so key to giving Pennsylvania’s students the supports and services they need to succeed in school,” Askey said. “During this unprecedented time, we need to acknowledge how irreplaceable they are. They support our kids every day. Now, we need lawmakers to support them, and all school staff members. Rep. Miller’s proposal does just that.”
Protections like the kind Rep. Miller is proposing were included in Act 13 of 2020, legislation which the General Assembly approved in March 2020 to ensure that educators and support professionals continued to be paid and maintained their health care while all Pennsylvania school buildings were closed in the spring.
Askey emphasized that the need to reauthorize Act 13’s paycheck and health care provisions is just as important now as it was then and pledged to work with Rep. Miller and others to help pass the legislation.
Askey is a Harrisburg music teacher and the president of PSEA. An affiliate of the National Education Association, PSEA represents about 178,000 active and retired educators and school employees, student teachers, higher education staff, and health care workers in Pennsylvania.