Bill would give summer benefits to school classified employees
LA School Report | February 20, 2015
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A new state bill introduced by Assembly Member Sebastian Ridley-Thomas would allow classified school employees to apply for unemployment benefits over the summer.
Assembly Bill 399 would impact a wide array of school employees, including bus drivers, special education assistants, cafeteria workers and other classified school workers who under current law are not allowed to apply for benefits, according to a press release from SEIU Local 99, the union that represents LA Unified’s classified employees.
SEIU represents approximately 45,000 school employees in the greater Los Angeles area. There are currently around 215,000 classified employees working in California public schools and community colleges, according to the Classified School Employees Association.
The law currently prohibits classified employees from receiving summer benefits, and they are the only seasonal workers prohibited by California law from doing so, according to SEIU, separating them from people who work as sports stadium employees and farm workers.
“During the academic year, in school districts throughout California, classified school employees serve our children and support their learning with deep passion, commitment and hard work,” Ridley-Thomas, who represents a mid-city district in Los Angeles, said in a statement. “Yet, during the summer months when many schools are not in session, these dedicated education workers often struggle to pay their rent and feed their own children. This legislation begins a dialogue about correcting an inequity in our state’s current unemployment insurance system.”
The new bill would recognize “the difference between the principal and the lunch lady,” because “current law is based on the rationale that all school workers — from administrators to teachers to cafeteria workers — earn enough during the school year to cover the three month summer recess period,” according to SEIU.
“Many school workers who have chosen to commit their life’s work to helping educate our children are forced to live in an endless cycle of debt and poverty,” said SEIU Local 99 Executive Director Max Arias in a statement. “We must do more to ensure school jobs are good jobs by improving wages, increasing full time work, expanding summer school, and ensuring school workers have access to unemployment benefits when they need them.”