The Portland school district’s education technicians have a new contract more than a year after the last one expired.

The Portland school board voted unanimously to ratify the three-year contract Tuesday night. The union ratified it on Sep. 29.

The contract will retroactively start in September 2021. Portland ed techs are receiving a 3% raise in the first year and a 2% raise in the second and third years. The ed-tech salary range will increase from the current $15.12-$26.23 an hour to $16.20-$28.11 in the 2023-24 school year. Salaries are based on education and experience.

The lack of a new contract for ed techs has stood out this school year. The Portland district and others in Maine have struggled to attract enough ed techs to adequately staff classrooms, especially for special education programs. At a September school board meeting, ed techs said the staffing shortage had led to unsafe conditions for educators and students.

Ed techs said at a September school board meeting that during the few weeks that classes had been in session, several ed techs had been bitten and some students had been left unattended because of the staffing shortage. They said a pay raise was needed to attract and retain ed techs.

Although representatives from both the union and school district said they were pleased to finally have a contract after more than a year of negotiations, ed tech union President Jen Cooper hinted in a statement to the board that she wasn’t completely satisfied.

“We are pleased to have settled this contract and look to continue the work towards a livable wage for many staff that help support our students throughout the year,” said Cooper.

Board Chair Emily Figdor said she shares Cooper’s goal of making sure ed techs are paid a livable wage.

“I deeply appreciate everyone coming together,” said Figdor. “I want to echo Jen’s goal of making sure our staff are being paid a livable wage. I know the work all the ed techs do is central to the work we do as a school district. You’re the glue so I’m deeply appreciative of all the work you do.”

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