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The Top 10 Advocacy Tips for Achieving NCSP Parity

School psychologists who are interested in advocating for statues or policies supporting stipends for school psychologists holding the NCSP need to plan strategically. The following recommendations are offered to assist you in getting started whether you are pursuing the passage of a school board policy or a state law:

  1. Convene a group of school psychologists interested in pursuing this issue. This committee needs committed participants that understand first and foremost that change does not occur overnight and that the road to accomplishing NCSP parity may be exhausting. Persistence and a willingness to continue revising and pushing forward are essential.

  2. Begin your committee discussions by evaluating what your assets and obstacles are in getting NCSP parity passed. A good place to begin this discussion is by examining the NCSP Legislation in State Statute or NCSP School Board Policies handouts. Each of these offers a list of reasons why the adopting of a policy or law may be more likely. For example, one reason why states or school boards are offering stipends is to attract qualified candidates to a state or school district that is experiencing a shortage. What assets does the state or school district offer to potential candidates? What obstacles exist to recruiting and retaining candidates? The purpose of this discussion is to try and understand all of the dimensions that could be impacting your ability to influence school and state leaders.

  3. Examine the available data supporting your position. Some key questions that you might want to explore include:
    1. Does your school district or State Department of Education maintain records of existing vacancies? How does the vacancy data for school psychologists compare to other professions?
    2. Does your school district’s Human Resources office maintain records of the number of qualified applicants per position opening? How do the average number of qualified school psych applicants compare to other professions?
    3. What would the fiscal impact of passage of a policy or statute be on existing budgets? This can be calculated by determining the number of eligible employees and multiplying by the desired stipend.

  4. What influential leaders (elected officials or central administrators) are interested in supporting your efforts? Do they have questions or concerns that need to be addressed by your committee? You will need a leader to sponsor your policy or legislation. If you don’t have someone in mind, do a little research into the backgrounds of these leaders. Is someone trained as another type of school mental health provider? Does someone have a relative with mental health concerns that could benefit from improved access to school mental health services? Leaders with a personal connection to the issue are the most likely to be long-term advocates you can count on.

  5. Explore the existing practices of the state or school district regarding the offering of stipends to teachers and administrators who hold national board certification. Find the specific statutory language or board policies that support awarding of these stipends. Put together a draft of proposed language for amending these policies and statutes with the least amount of impact. It is more likely that your amendments will be accepted if they are simple and have a minimal fiscal impact.

  6. Study the NASP resources provided on the website related to this issue. Develop a list of talking points for promoting NCSP parity.

  7. Talk to other NASP leaders that have worked for NCSP parity. Contact the NASP office for names of professionals who have worked on this and discuss with NASP staff the challenges that people have encountered. The sharing of experiences often helps avoid the same obstacles and mistakes in the process.

  8. Organize a “grassroots” movement to get the word out about your objectives and goals pertaining to NCSP parity. Determine who you can educate and motivate to be a voice for your issue. You need people who are articulate, thoughtful and likeable to take your message to leaders. You also need people who are willing to participate in quick actions that “blanket” leaders with your message. Either way, these professionals need to be coached on the specific talking points and prepped on some of the challenging questions they might encounter and how to respond in a positive, student/family-focused way.

  9. Keep your message student and family focused. NCSP parity is not for the sole purpose of making you feel better because of an increase in pay. It is about recruiting and retaining highly qualified professionals so that the mental health needs of students and families can be better addressed. It is about ensuring that the highest quality of services can be provided to students and families to make sure that the learning environment is the most conducive to individual success. Keep your focus on your stakeholders and solicit their support in your advocacy efforts.

  10. If you fail on your first try, do not give up. Meet with leaders and determine the key reasons why your efforts failed. Where possible, adjust your request to alleviate these concerns. Especially when trying to get laws passed, it often takes several tries before you are successful.