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Students honor behind the scenes heroes in schools nationwide

NEA's Education Support Professionals Day recognizes individuals critical to keeping schools running

WASHINGTON - November 19, 2008 -

Students throughout the country today will be joining the National Education Association and its 3.2 million members in celebrating Education Support Professional Day by organizing special appreciation breakfasts, luncheons and other celebrations to honor the individuals who take part in nearly every "behind the scenes" school day activity. 

Education support professionals (ESPs) include bus drivers, custodians, security professionals, cafeteria workers, paraeducators, office assistants and technicians.  They make up more than 40 percent of all public school employees, but many of their positions are not readily recognizable to the general public.

"Today I urge everyone to take the time to thank ESPs for the invaluable services they provide to the nearly 50 million students in the nation's public schools," said Dennis Van Roekel, NEA president.  "They are the lifeline and backbone of schools.  They are involved in nearly every aspect of the school day, from driving students to and from school and preparing nutritious meals to making sure classrooms are safe, clean and orderly.  Without them, schools would be unable to function."

More than 75 percent of ESPs ensure student and staff safety.  On the average, they have more than a decade of experience.  Seven out of 10 ESPs work more than 40 hours a week, yet they earn less than $25,000 a year.  In addition, a recent NEA survey of its ESP members shows:      

  • 80 percent work full time 
  • 72 percent work in a school building
  • 43 percent work in a preschool, kindergarten or elementary school
  • 60 percent live in a small town or rural area
  • 86 percent are female
  • An average age of 51 years old

Education Support Professionals Day is part of NEA's 87th annual American Education Week celebration, taking place this year November 16-22. Education Support Professionals Day was first celebrated in 1987 after NEA's Representative Assembly, the Association's annual conference of 10,000 member delegates, called for the creation of a way to honor contributions of school support staff. Education Support Professionals Day is observed on Wednesday during American Education Week.

American Education Week's tagline, Great Public Schools:  A Basic Right and Our Responsibility, represents NEA's vision of making public schools great for every student and the shared responsibility of all Americans to provide students with quality public schools. To find out more about American Education Week, visit or contact your local public school.

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Christiana Campos  (202) 822-7823