Skip to Content

History of Education Support Professionals in NEA


mid-1960s Employment of auxiliary personnel in schools rises sharply in response to increases in the availability of federal funds from the Office of Economic Oppor­tunity, the Office of Education, and the Labor Department as part of the congressional War on Poverty.

1965 The Elementary and Secondary Education School Act (ESEA) is signed in to law by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Title I of the ESEA grants funding to schools to improve the academic performance of low-income or disadvantaged children. The focus on raising stu­dent achievement requires additional resources in the educational setting, such as those provided by para­professsionals and auxiliary personnel.

1967 The Representative Assembly (RA) adopts the new membership category, “Educational Secretary,” into the NEA Bylaws.

1972-1973 A membership category for “Auxiliary Personnel” is established at the 1972 RA. The membership cate­gories adopted into the NEA Bylaws at the 1973 RA are Active, Life, Reserve, Associate, Educational Secretary, Auxiliary Personnel, Retired, Student, and Survivor.

1974 A task force is appointed at the 1974 RA to study the problems related to organizing and servicing sub­stitute, part-time, and paraprofessional personnel, including examination of their “proper” professional and legal relationships with full-time teachers. As part of the motion, the RA also adopts the statement supporting the right of paraprofessionals to bargain collectively with their employers.

1975 At the 1975 RA, the membership category of “Auxiliary Personnel” is changed to “Parapro­fessionals.” “Educational Secretary” remains as a separate membership category.

1979 NEA faces federal pressure to comply with the 1959 Landrum-Griffin Act, which requires that minority groups within an organization be granted rights of majority groups, including representation and voting. Amendments to the NEA Bylaws are passed at the 1979 RA to grant certain constituency groups, includ­ing ESP, the right to participate in governance, including the right to vote and to seek and hold elected and appointive offices. These rights were pre­viously restricted to Active Members.

The 1979 RA also votes to collapse the membership categories for “Paraprofessionals” and “Educational Secretary” into a single membership category of “Educational Support Personnel,” which expands the membership category to include other non-teaching education employees.

1980 ESPs are voted full membership rights by the RA.

1982 A Special Committee on Educational Support Personnel (often referred to as the “ESP Committee”) is established at the RA. The ESP Committee is authorized to advise the Board of Directors and recommend policies related to educational support personnel.

1983 The RA establishes a number of at-large positions for ESP on the Board of Directors proportional to the number of NEA ESP members during electionyears. ESP members immediately run for the new at-large positions at the Representative Assembly and Nancy Marrone from Maine is elected as the first ESP at-large member of the NEA Board of Directors.

1984-present ESP members increase their representation in gover­nance through elected positions in both at-large and state-affiliate positions on the Board of Directors. ESP are also increasingly appointed to key policy committees, including the Resolutions Committee, the Committee on Women’s Issues, and the Program and Budget Committee.

1986 The first annual NEA ESP Conference is held in Washington, D.C.

1987 NEA establishes National Educational Support Personnel Day

1988 The “Active” membership definition is expanded to include educational support personnel and the sepa­rate membership category for ESP is eliminated.

1990-1991 Resolutions are passed at the 1990 and 1991 RAs that highlight the essential role of ESP in enhancing the learning environment and education process and recognizes their contribution as positive role models.

1992  NEA ESP of the Year is established.

1993 NEA’s entire committee structure is revamped at the 1993 RA to represent the diverse segments of the membership. The Special Committee on ESP is dis­solved and replaced with the 7-7-7 structure of the Membership Advisory Committee, in which 7 mem­bers are teachers, 7 are ESPs, and 7 are Higher Education.

1995 The National Council for Educational Support Per­sonnel (NCESP) is established, with an operational budget, a part-time staff member, and official observ­er status at Executive Committee, Board and budget meetings.

1997 Iona Holloway, an elementary school paraeducator from Louisiana, becomes the first ESP elected to the nine-member NEA Executive Committee.

1998 The 1998 RA adopts a resolution endorsing the pro­fessional development of ESP and recognizes a need for the ESP voice to be represented in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of their professional development programs.

2001-2002 A resolution is passed at the 2001 RA to  officially change to the term “Educational Support Professional” to “Education Support Professional.” The 2002 RA votes to adopt a new Education Support Professional Quality Department—separate from its original parent department, Affiliate Capacity Building—with an operational and staffing budget.

2007 Paula Monroe, a high school secretary in Redlands, Calif., was elected to the National Education Association's (NEA) Executive Committee in July 2007 for a three-year term.

2008 Four ESP are serving as vice presidents of their state Associations: Steve Cook (MI), Mike Hoffman (DE), Marty Meyer (ID), and Gail Rasmussen (OR).

2009 ESP membership tops 500,000 in February 2009. Gail Rasmussen is elected President of the Oregon Education Association. She is the first ESP to hold the top state affiliate position.