La Opinión article: Special Education Assistant sells tamales to survive in summer

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Translation into English below…

Special Education Assistant sells tamales to survive in summer

School employees without pay for the summer want to receive unemployment benefits.

Esmeralda Torres trabaja como asistente de maestro en el área de educación especial.
Esmeralda Torres works as a teacher’s assistant in the area of special education.

By: Yurina Melara
Apr 28, 2015

In the summer, Esmeralda Torres leaves the classroom to sell tamales, tostadas and oranges.

Esmeralda is one of the more than 284,000 school employees in California with no income during the summer who must rely on whatever they can to survive.

In the case of Esmeralda, a Carson resident and employee of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), she survives by selling food to her neighbors, and if the need is still great, she borrows money from her sisters.

“I’ve looked for work in shops during the summer, but everywhere I look they say the same thing, they cannot give me a job if I’m staying for such a short time. I have applied for jobs at schools with summer programs, but find it a matter of luck,” said Esmeralda, who has worked as special education assistant for 12 years.

She says she loves her job and is very happy professionally with the help she gives children in special education. During her working months, Esmeralda sets aside $100 per month as a special fund for the summer, but that little money is not enough to cover their expenses and help her two daughters in college.

Administrative employees, teachers, librarians and school nurses are paid for 12 months. Other employees, such as this Mexican immigrant, do not earn enough to split their salary in 12 months. The average annual income of these employees is $ 20,700.

A bill in Sacramento, AB399, would extend unemployment benefits to workers during the summer months.

“Many of these employees fall into the category of poor,” said Patrick Burns, author of a report that reveals the profile of these school workers who are not paid during the summer.

Three out of four of these workers are women. Two out of three have some level of higher education, including 16% who have a college diploma or a specialty.

“Too often they rely on food stamps or welfare. The current system falsely assumes that a cafeteria employee can survive without a summer paycheck as easily as a principal,” said Burns, who believes that a good option is to extend unemployment benefits.

According to the study, extended unemployment benefits would have add $187 million in wealth to the state economy.

Wednesday, Esmeralda and other LAUSD employees will travel to Sacramento to talk with legislators and promote AB399.

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