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History and Background

Education Support Professionals: An essential part of One Education Workforce

In early 2009, Education Support Professional (ESP) membership in the National Education Association topped half a million, reflecting a 3200% growth since we gained full membership status in 1980.

Education Support Professionals were first recognized as Association members in 1967, when “Educational Secretaries” received membership. A category for “Auxiliary Personnel,” or paraprofessionals, was added in 1972. “Educational Support Personnel”—encompassing all non-teaching education employees— was established as a separate membership category in 1980. ESP won a position on the NEA Board of Directors in 1983, and we continued to expand our representation in governance throughout the 1980s.

In1988, Education Support Personnel were included as active members rather than a separate membership category. ESP were recognized as “professionals” in 2001, and in 2002, we gained our own NEA department, Education Support Professionals Quality, charged with promoting professional quality for ESP.

Currently, there are more than 3 million education support staff in the nation’s school systems. Because nearly one half of the employees of any given school district are support professionals, we represent the biggest opportunity for NEA membership growth.

Our power can only increase as our numbers grow.

Issues of Importance for Education Support Professionals

To attract a skilled, dedicated and experienced Education Support Professionals workforce, and to be a full partner in a strong Association, ESPs need:


ESPs need to have our importance acknowledged by school districts, administrators, teachers, parents, and our Association.


ESP want to be treated as full partners in the education team at the school level and within the local, state and national Association.

Job Security

ESP need protection from layoffs and privatization.

Pay and Benefits

ESP need pay commensurate with the skills and responsibilities of our positions—no less than a living wage.

Training and Professional Development

ESP need opportunities and meaningful education that provides both for career path development (e.g. paras becoming teachers) and for continual improvement within our current jobs.We want training to bring our skills up to date with 21st century changes.


History of Education Support Professionals in NEA

History of ESP of the Year Award