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Advocacy Reminders for a New School Year
Here in Oregon, the weather is starting to chill, and trees are changing colors. The mornings are full of the sound of school buses and playground giggles. For an outsider, the start of the school year looks easy. Students and teachers getting back into the same rhythm that they left at the start of summer, without missing a beat. From the inside, though, things aren't as simple. Many school psychologists are returning to school buildings and districts that continue to be understaffed and underserved. Classrooms continue to be overcrowded, students with diverse needs continue to lack the necessary support staff to access instruction, and students are not provided the opportunity to access necessary mental health supports.
As school psychologists, we are often spread so thin across buildings that we can only practice a small proportion of the comprehensive model that we were trained to execute. However, despite staffing shortages, school psychologists across the country are returning to our worksites eager to make meaningful and impactful change. Every day we advocate on behalf of our students, our colleagues, and the families we work with, steadily moving the dial toward local change. Importantly, more and more school psychologists are working at the state level to advocate on behalf of increased mental health services and decreased student-to-school psychologist ratios. More and more, state lawmakers and education leaders are seeing the importance of school psychologists, and some states are increasing funding for school-based mental health services. NASP has many policy and advocacy resources on its website, or through the Government and Professional Relations (GPR) Committee, to support the work you are doing at the local and state levels, such as the Policy Playbook. These resources can help you and your fellow change makers craft effective key messages and determine the best advocacy strategies to support evidence-based policies that improve positive outcomes for children and youth, as well as to combat harmful policies.
At the national level during this legislative session, there are several efforts aimed at reducing some of the barriers to hiring school psychologists. One key piece of legislation is the Mental Health in Schools Excellence Program Act (H.R. 3228), which seeks to increase funding to improve higher education pathways for school-based mental health careers, including school psychology. Another bill, the Mental Health Services for Students Act (H.R. 3713) formally authorizes Project AWARE, which enhances school-community partnerships and trains school personnel to support a multifaceted approach for addressing the mental and behavioral health needs of students. Additionally, NASP advocates have been working diligently to support continued funding for key grant programs that address the root causes of shortages. At this year's Public Policy Institute, we had 60 school psychologists from 23 states advocating for increased school-based mental health supports for students. They held meetings with their Congressional offices to share their experience in schools and districts and advocate for this legislation, as well as other key issues impacting school psychologists and the children we serve. You can also help advocate for important federal legislation and funding with ease through NASP's Advocacy Action Center.
NASP and the GPR Committee are committed to supporting your advocacy work in whatever capacity you need, including creating resources, providing consultation, and keeping you updated on key policy and advocacy issues in real time. We wish you luck as you start the new year. And remember to reach out to us for any policy or advocacy needs.