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Education support professionals essential for student success

NEA shines spotlight on vital role and contributions of ESP members

WASHINGTON - November 16, 2011 -

As part of the annual American Education Week observance, the National Education Association (NEA) and its 3.2 million members join schools and communities across the nation in celebrating Education Support Professionals Day on Wednesday, November 16. Among the day’s events and activities are appreciation breakfasts, luncheons and other celebrations to honor the individuals who work behind the scenes to support students and help schools run smoothly.

Education support professionals (ESPs) drive school buses, clean school buildings, prepare meals and bandage scraped knees.  They also serve as security guards, paraeducators, office assistants and technicians.  ESPs usually are the first to arrive at school and the last to leave. Schools couldn’t operate without them and students would not be as successful. Even though ESPs make up more than 40 percent of all public school employees, their role in supporting students and teachers is often overlooked.

“Education support professionals play a vital role in helping to prepare students to lead successful lives,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “ESPs touch the lives of students in very important ways. They take temperatures, prepare nutritious meals, keep classrooms clean, and they help teachers to provide students with individual attention when needed.  As teachers, we recognize ESPs as valuable members of the education team. Students know them to be adults who care deeply about them.”

ESPs are active in the communities where they work, with 75 percent living within the school district that employs them.  On average, they have more than a decade of experience. NEA research shows that ESPs are generous with their time and resources, contributing in countless ways to help ensure student success.  According to NEA research:

  • 53 percent of ESPs provide care to students with special needs; 
  • 61 percent give money (an average of $170 per year) out of their own pockets to help students with things such as classroom supplies and field trips; 
  • 24 percent coach or support sports programs without compensation;
  • 40 percent support activities of a parental involvement organization;
  • More than 78 percent of ESPs are responsible for student and staff safety;
  • 53 percent have intervened to prevent bullying in the last two years.

Education Support Professionals Day is part of NEA’s 90th annual American Education Week celebration and was first celebrated in 1987 after NEA’s Representative Assembly, the Association’s decision-making body of nearly 10,000 member delegates, called for creating a way to honor the contributions of all school support staff. 

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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  202-822-7261,