Public Policy Update
Numerous public policy and legislative initiatives at the national and state levels are extremely relevant to school psychology. Most prominent in 2013 are school climate and safety, access to mental health services in schools, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, sequestration, and the Reauthorization of ESEA. We all need to have a voice on these issues to ensure that schools improve students' access to the various services school psychologists provide. NASP will continue to update this page with relevant information.
The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015
This week, the Senate HELP Committee released the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (ECAA). Earlier this year, Senator Lamar Alexander, Chairman of the HELP Committee, released a discussion draft and solicited input from various stakeholders about how to best improve our nation's schools. (The draft, and NASP recommendations can be found here). ECCA is the product of public feedback, months of bipartisan negotiations, and compromise (a word you don't hear often when it comes to Congress). Introduction of ECCA is the first step in the process to reauthorizing ESEA. Below is a summary of the key policy proposals; however, nothing is set in stone. This bill must go through a committee mark -up followed by a full Senate floor discussion and debate, both of which could result in changes to many of the policies proposed in this bill.
State Assessment and Accountability Systems.
- Each state must develop challenging academic standards (for math, reading/language arts, and science) that are aligned with entrance requirements to higher education or entry into the workforce.
- Current assessment requirements are maintained; however, states can use formative and summative assessments that provide data on student achievement and/or growth.
- No more than 1% of students with the most significant cognitive disabilities can be assessed using an alternative assessment based on alternative academic achievement standards
- Each state must develop an accountability system aligned with state academic standards
- State plans must be approved via a peer review process that must include input from a diverse group of stakeholders.
- States must develop a system that differentiates high performing schools from low performing schools and develop a process for addressing the needs of low performing schools
- Although not required, states and LEAs are encouraged to include indicators of school quality, school climate, and safety in accountability plans.
Comprehensive School Psychological Services
- Encourages the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support to address student academic achievement and behavior
Requires that Title I school-wide programs, and activities intended to improve school safety, school climate, student mental health, physical health and overall well- being be based on the results of a comprehensive needs assessment
- Eliminates all ‘small’ grant programs, including the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program
- Requires that specialized instructional support personnel be consulted in the development of all plans intended to improve student achievement, behavior, and mental health.
- Allows federal professional development funds to be used to provide opportunities for school psychologists, and other specialized instructional support personnel
Your advocacy will be critical as NASP continues to work with our allied partners and Congressional staff over the next few months! NASP is working with our partners to promote the inclusion of legislative language that would: 1) authorize the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program, 2) explicitly define ‘school psychologist’ ; 3) improve the capacity of SEA/LEA to implement comprehensive systems of academic, behavioral, social, emotional, and mental health supports; 4) support the role of the school psychologist in these efforts. You can access the full bill here or read the summary the HELP Committee released.
A Busy Start to 2015!
We are just a month into the new year, and there has been a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill!! Issues including k-12 education policy, school safety, education funding, and the quality of teacher preparation programs have taken center stage recently. NASP has been actively advocating on behalf of school psychologists, and your help will be needed in the coming weeks and months to help ensure that all students have access to school psychologists and the comprehensive school psychological services you provide to teachers, parents and families. Here is just a snapshot of what we’ve been working on, stay tuned for more information and specific ways you can get involved.
Mid-Term Election Update
The November 4th elections determined the make-up of the 114th Congress, which will begin on January 3, 2015. Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives and gained control of the Senate meaning that there will be many changes in terms of committee chairmanship, committee membership, and committee staffs. Additionally, there will be at least 69 new members of Congress, each with their own policy agendas and priorities. Unfortunately, a number of NASP allies will not be returning in the 114th Congress, and we will be working hard to forge new relationships and find new partners to advance our legislative agenda. Your help in these efforts will be critical not only at the Federal level, but at the state and local level as well.
Although committee assignments will not be finalized for several weeks, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is poised to become the next chairman of the Senate committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act will be one of his top priorities, and he is likely to use 'Every Child Ready for College or Career' as a starting point. NASP supports a number of proposals contained in this bill, and will work hard to promote legislation that is aligned with our vision and mission.
Over the coming days and weeks, we will learn more about the specific policy priorities of the 114th Congress and newly elected State Governors and Legislatures. Stay tuned for more information and specific ways you can advocate for policies and practices that will help all children thrive in school, at home, and in life.
2014 Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit
On Friday, August 15, the US Department of Education hosted the 4th Federal Partners in Bullying Prevention Summit. This day-long event brought together researchers, practitioners, and advocates from across the country (physically and virtually) to share successes and challenges to addressing bullying and making all students feel safe and welcomed at school. You can view people's thoughts and reactions using #BullyingSummit14 on Twitter.
President's FY 2015 Budget Request
This week, the Obama Administration released their Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Requests. This year, a 2% increase in funding is requested for the Department of Education. Although NASP applauds increased funding for public education, this budget proposal renews some concerns NASP has with the way federal funds are spent. According to released budget documents, major initiatives in the Department of for FY2015 include: 1) increasing equity and opportunity; 2) strengthening support for teachers and leaders; 3)expanding high quality preschool programs; 4)affordability and quality in postsecondary education; 5) promoting educational innovation and improvement; and 6) improving school safety and climate. View Complete Budget documents.
FY 14 Appropriations
Congress recently passed the passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2014 (pdf). This legislation sets the funding levels for each Federal Agency and directs funds to specific grant programs. Thanks to your advocacy, funding was increased, or restored for a number of grants and programs that will help ensure that all students have access to the academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and mental health supports they need to be successful in school. NASP will continue to work with Congress, the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice to ensure that comprehensive school psychological services, and school psychologists, are integral to any initiative to improve school and student outcomes.
Fall into Advocacy!
Fall is a great time to meet with your Senators and Representatives in their home state and district. Your elected officials want, and need to hear from you, so that they can take your thoughts, concerns, suggestions, data, and personal stories back to Washington to help influence public policies that will ensure that all students have access to the academic, behavioral, social, emotional, and mental health supports they need to be successful in school. TO help you plan your meeting with your Senator or your Congressman, NASP has created an advocacy guide that includes basic tips for advocacy, relevant NASP documents that you may want to share, key talking points, and research that supports these policy ideas. At the end of the document, there are specific pieces of legislation being considered in Congress that NASP is supporting. It is not necessary for you to focus on specifics of the pieces of legislation, but rather the broad themes it is intended to address. The legislation referenced in this document refers specifically to bills in Congress; however, the general talking points can be used when meeting with your state and local elected officials. Please let us know how your meetings go by contacting Kelly Vaillancourt, PhD, NASP Director of Government Relations.
To see when your Senators or Representative will be in their home district check out the US Senate and US House of Representatives calendar.
2013 Talking Points
Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)
Reauthorization of ESEA (also known as No Child Left Behind) is fives years overdue, and although attempts to pass a reauthorized bill were made in the 112th Congress, it is unclear what progress will be made in the 113th Congress (January 2013-January 2015) NASP will continue to be actively involved in helping to shape the legislation, with specific emphasis on ensuring, among other things, that the role of the school psychologist is explicitly mentioned in law. As always, the voice of individual school psychologists, like you, is vital to building support within Congress.
Partnerships for Achieving Student Success Act
Recently Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced H.R 1854, Partnerships for Achieving Student Success Act (PDF) This bill would create a federal grant program to help build the capacity of low-income school districts to recruit, employ, and retain school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and other psychologists qualified to work in the schools. On May 15, Congresswoman Chu gave a 5-minute speech on the house floor in which she acknowledged the importance of school based mental health services, and shared the story of how a community rallied a local school board to save the job of a school psychologist because of the impact he had on the students and the community at large. Representative Chu, a psychologist herself, recognizes the important work that school psychologists do every day for our students.
Read her full statement
NASP 2013 Congressional Briefing
Effective School Discipline Policy and Practice: Supporting Student Learning
On April 18, 2013, NASP hosted a Congressional briefing in cooperation with U.S. Representative David Loebsack (IA-2) on how effective school discipline is essential to student success and must be integral to education reform efforts and legislation.
Mental Health Improvement and Awareness Act of 2013
On April 10, 2013, the Senate HELP Committee introduced, and unanimously passed, The Mental Health Improvement Act of 2013. This was introduced as an amendment to a larger bill designed to address gun control, which ultimately failed. However, the amendment itself passed with a vote of 95-2!
Although this bill must be re-introduced and voted on in the Senate and introduced and voted on in the House of Representatives before it becomes law, there is momentum to improve mental health services in our schools and communities.
The President's Fiscal Year 2014 Budget for Education
President Obama released his FY 2014 budget earlier this month. Federal fiscal year 2013 (FY14) starts October 1, 2013 and runs through September 30, 2014, and these federal funds would be available to school districts in the 2014-2015 school year. The President has six priorities in his 2014 budget request; high quality early learning opportunities for all children, improving teaching and learning in K-12 education, making our schools safe and creating positive learning environments, career-readiness for all, improving affordability and qualify in postsecondary education, and supporting the Administration's Ladders of Opportunity initiative for high-poverty communities.
The President's Plan to Reduce Violence, Improve School Climate, and Increase Access to Mental Health Services
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School sparked a national conversation about how we can make schools safer and improve access to mental health services. Vice President Biden led a bid to solicit input from various stakeholders on how to effectively decrease violence, improve school climate, and increase access to mental health services in schools. NASP was invited to participate in this conversation and released NASP's Recommendations for Comprehensive School Safety Policies. Based on the input from various stakeholders, President Obama released his plan to protect our children and communities by reducing gun violence. The full plan can be read here; however, there are key aspects that relate to school psychology.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Although the fate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as "Obamacare", was in limbo for some time, the Supreme Court decision to uphold the law and President Obama's reelection ensure its full implementation. Both the ACA and the related expansion of Medicaid have implications for school psychologists and the delivery of mental health services in the schools. In particular school psychologists are included in the definition of 'mental health service professional' and 'qualified health professional' within the federal law, although not all states recognize school psychologists as eligible providers for Medicaid reimbursement. School psychologists can work with their state association to ensure that Medicaid definitions are aligned with the federal law.
Sequestration (The Fiscal Cliff)
Despite efforts by President Obama, Congress, and hundreds of advocacy groups, sequestration went into effect on March 1st. At this time it is unclear how soon the cuts will actually take place, and how long it will take for the effects to be felt in schools across the country. However, sequestration will have serious consequences for every program and service that currently relies on some level of Federal funding. Funding for education would drop to its lowest level since= 2003, with $4.8 billion dollars cut in 2013 alone. An estimated 80,000 education related jobs and many critical services could potentially be lost. The US Department of Education has information on how the sequester will impact each individual state here.
Also, let us know the impact of sequestration on your role and services using this short feedback form. We are tracking effects of the cuts across the country.