Five Minute on Partnerships for
Achieving Student Success (PASS) Act
Rep. Judy Chu
Last month, Galway Central School District in New York considered outsourcing the roles of their school psychologist and social worker. After all, budgets are tight and what harm could come from a quick administrative maneuver?
Andrew Huzsar – the district psychologist – and Christine Bornt – the school social worker – had already faced an uphill battle helping their students. Although the district has only 900 children in attendance, Galway is geographically one of the largest school districts in New York State. And as the only school psychologist and social worker, Andrew and Christine struggled to meet the needs of their students facing more than double the recommended ratio of students to mental health professional and long commutes across the district.
An onslaught of letters and testimonies soon flooded the Board of Education, as students, parents and teachers alike protested on Andrew and Christine’s behalf. The board soon relented to the public outrage –in part thanks to a moving letters of support that Andrew received.
It was from a young student, explaining that he would not be alive today if it had not been for Andrew intervening in his life. This student was not someone Andrew saw regularly – they met only three times the previous school year. Mental health counseling is a critical component for student success. Just three meetings were enough to save a child’s life.
As a clinical psychologist, I know that there is no budget cut more short-sighted than one that stands between mental health resources and those who desperately need them. For a student, that access may be the difference between a productive day in class and an act of aggression against themselves or their peers. In the case of Andrew and that student, it made the difference between life and death.
That’s why, last week I introduced the Partnerships for Achieving Student Success – or PASS – Act. It does more than ever before to help our nation’s neediest schools ensure that our children have access to the appropriate mental health and student services professionals on campus. It creates a federal grant program to help low-income school districts recruit, employ, and retain school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and other psychologists qualified to work in K through 12 schools.
Galway School District ultimately kept their mental health professionals, but not every school district has the capacity to do so. By expanding the number of school mental health professionals in low-income, high-need schools, we can affect positive change in the lives of students who need it most. That’s why the PASS Act already has the support of the American Psychological Association, National Association of School Psychologists, American School Counselor Association, and the School Social Work Association of America.
And it is why I take to the floor today: to encourage my colleagues to support this bill and improve the academic and life success for students throughout this country. Together, we can make sure that the Andrews of this world are there when their students need them.