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Honoring The Work of Education Support Professionals

NEA celebrates ESP Day with special appearance, push for federal recognition

By John Rosales

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 -- Education Support Professionals, such as paraeducators, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, secretaries, custodians and security personnel, may do much of their work behind the scenes -- but NEA is working hard to make sure they receive the recognition they deserve. It's ESP Day, an annual part of NEA's American Education Week, and NEA celebrated with a special appearance at a Virginia school and a push for federal legislation to recognize ESPs. 

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and  U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan appeared together today at John Adams Elementary School in Alexandria, VA, where both men learned first-hand what it's like to perform the job of an ESP. Van Roekel and Duncan donned chef's hats to serve lunch to hundreds of students.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan (center) and
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel serve school lunch.

NEA wants to ensure that the hard work of ESPs isn't just recognized once a year. That's why the Association recently hosted a meeting of the National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU) with the intent of creating the National Classified School Employees of the Year awards. 

The event was attended by the Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), who sponsored legislation that would create the awards to honor ESPs for their contributions to America’s public schools and institutions of higher education.

The bill (H.R. 2377) is co-sponsored by Titus and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). It would provide “long overdue recognition for the outstanding contributions that ESPs have made to our nation’s schools and the students they serve,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

NEA ESP leader Paula Monroe (left) meets with Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV)

NEA’s liaison to the coalition, Vice President Lily Eskelsen, welcomed participants, which included Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education, Jo Anderson.

“As many of you know, this coalition is the result of several years of meetings among organizations representing classified education support professionals around the country,” Eskelsen said, referring to coalition partners, which include, the California School Employees Association, Public School Employees of Washington/SEIU Local 1948, Minnesota School Employees Association, and SEIU Local 284 from Minnesota.

Education support staff comprises 44 percent of the workforce in most school districts. NEA has identified nine job categories of ESPs: clerical services, transportation services, paraeducators, custodial and maintenance services, food services, skilled trades, health and student services, security services, and technical services.


American Education Week Web site

Learn more about the important work of ESPs