Classified School Employees are AWESOME! …but we struggle

Classified School Employees Week
May 16-20, 2016

Kat-Hamm-2014
Special Ed Assistant Kat Hamm has to “dumpster dive” for bottles and cans during the summer to try to make ends meet.

“Yet, even with these struggles, I have never thought about leaving my job.”

Kat Hamm has been a Special Education Assistant with the Los Angeles Unified School District for 17 years.

“I’ve been dedicated to education since the age of five, when I lined up my grandmother’s plants like students in a classroom and ‘taught’ them. I just always knew I wanted to work in a school,” says Hamm. “I love seeing kids aspire to their fullest potential. I especially love working with children in Special Education. I can relate to children with learning disabilities because I am also an LD learner. I love to nurture those kids. In school and in the community they call me Mama Hamm.”

And “Mama Hamm” keeps a long list of the students she’s proud of. While waiting at a bus stop recently, a young man came out of his car and approached her. “Remember me?” he asked. “I’m in school now. I’m working.” He is 27 now, but had been one of Hamm’s more difficult students.

“It is a good feeling to know I made a difference in his life.”

But the summers are hard. LAUSD’s classified employees are among the lowest paid. With the cost of living so high, even during the school year it’s hard to make ends meet. It’s impossible to save.

“I start stressing,” says Hamm. “I try to look for summer work but employers either tell me I’m over qualified or they’re not interested in hiring me for just a short period of time. I’ve received several eviction notices throughout the years. But thanks to my son, I’m able to make it. During the summer, he picks up some of the load and actually carries it until I can get some kind of assistance. Without him working, I really would be out on the streets.”

But it’s still difficult to pay for food, utilities and medicine. People ask Hamm how she makes it through the summer.

“Well, do you know what dumpster diving is? When people are sleeping, I’m out collecting glass bottles, cans, whatever is recyclable. It can be dangerous but by the grace of God I’ve made it,” she says. “Yet, even with these struggles, I have never thought about leaving my job. I love the kids and the students I work with. And there are many, many dedicated school workers like me.”

Recently, Hamm traveled to Sacramento to represent the school workers of SEIU Local 99. She spoke out in support of Assembly Bill 2197 (Garcia), the Summer Relief for School Workers Act which would allow school workers to access Unemployment Insurance. According to the Economic Roundtable, legislation like this would bring an additional $187.3 million in increased sales for California businesses and $12.1 million more in state and local tax revenue.

Please urge your state legislator to support AB 2197 and help bring summer relief to dedicated school employees like Kat Hamm

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