ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The list of open positions within Albuquerque Public Schools is long. They need everything from bus drivers, nurses, secretaries, and educational assistants. APS is currently down about 200 Educational Assistants. Fewer E.A.’s mean teachers who are already stretched thin, are even more overwhelmed.

Kathy Chavez, the President of Albuquerque Federation of Classified Professionals says there are a lot of things behind that shortage, starting with the workload. “I don’t think there’s a lot of respect for those positions,” Chavez said. “They’re certainly extremely underpaid for the work they do,” she explained.

Chavez worked as an Educational Assistant for 17 years. She says E.A.’s have a lot more responsibility and a lot less support. E.A.’s are primarily used in Kindergarten and Special Ed classes. By state law, both Kindergarten and Special Ed are required to have at least two people in each classroom. In some circumstances, a special ed class will get more depending on their need. Right now, Chavez says most of the E.A. openings are likely in Special Ed classes.

Ellen Bernstein, the President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation says it’s a trickle-down effect, and it will impact everyone. “Five-year-olds require a lot of attention,” Bernstein said. “If you’re used to having two trained adults, and you don’t have that other adult it really limits how much teachers can do with kids,” she explained.

Chavez says it’s a common trend to see education assistants leave at the beginning of the spring semester. Bernstein says the number of open positions is about equal to what it was last year, however, they’ve lost about 100 E.A.’s since the pandemic.

E.A.’s did just get a boost in pay during the last legislative session. Starting pay is now fifteen dollars an hour, before that they were making only $12,000 a year.