Policy Matters Blog
In This Section
Back to School and Advocacy
Welcome to September! Most of us are waving goodbye to summer (some of us gladly, others less so) and reorienting ourselves to the challenges that come with a new school year. Whether you’re in the thick of back-to-school shopping, lesson planning, or meeting with administrators, parents, and teachers, it’s worth it to take some time refreshing your advocacy for a new school year and legislative period. We’ve put together some highlights for you to get back into advocacy on the right foot, even if you didn’t follow the political drama surrounding infrastructure and reconciliation legislation talks over a much-needed summer break.
The Biden Administration has been heavily focused on implementing their domestic priorities. The first massive spending package, known as the American Rescue Plan, included $170 billion for education to help schools address instructional loss, student mental health, and other efforts to ensure that students are safe and supported as they return to school this fall. (Note, NASP is tracking how schools use these funds to address NASP priorities, including addressing the shortage of school psychologists, and we will share more information soon.) Despite this large price tag, the administration and Congress did not stop there.
In late March, President Biden proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would, among other things:
- Fix and upgrade roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure;
- Eliminate and replace lead pipes;
- Upgrade digital infrastructure and expand access to broadband internet;
- Create a more resilient infrastructure system, especially in communities most vulnerable to the impact of climate change;
- Create more affordable housing options for low-income families;
- Modernize, upgrade, and build new public schools, community colleges, and child care facilities.
The Senate eventually passed a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill in early August that included many of these priorities; however, funds to rebuild and modernize schools were not included in the passed legislation. NASP is working with partner organizations to advocate for the inclusion of funds to rebuild our nation’s crumbling schools in the next huge piece of legislation that is looming.
Although the infrastructure package was passed in a bipartisan manner in the Senate and is expected to also pass the House, the Biden Administration (and many members of Congress and advocates) has a number of other domestic policy priorities that they are seeking to pass via a complex process known as reconciliation. This process allows for an expedited path towards passage for high-priority bills concerning taxation, spending, and debt limits. These bills can move more quickly through Congress because they are not subject to the Senate’s filibuster, which frequently derails bills with controversial measures unlikely to pass a Senate that is evenly split by two parties. Reconciliation is subject to specific constraints and processes that are determined by past Senate precedent and rulings by the Senate Parliamentarian, which you can learn more about here. This bill is being referred to the Build Back Better Act. You can read the full bill here, but as it relates to education, it includes the following:
- Funds to rebuild and repair our nation’s public school facilities, including efforts to make them more energy efficient and climate resilient;
- Funds for IDEA personnel preparation grants, which can be used to recruit and retain school psychologists;
- Tuition-free community college;
- Funds to improve research and development capacity of minority serving institutions; and
- Funds for universal preschool available to all 3 and 4 year olds.
On Thursday, September 9, the House Committee on Education and Labor marked up their portion of the Build Back Better Act. The Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services, which operates numerous school mental health and early learning programs, and we expect to see additional education and child well-being proposals when this committee releases their portion of this massive reconciliation package.
The Senate has yet to introduce their legislation, and NASP remains in contact with key elected officials and their staff to advocate for inclusion of NASP priorities. Stay tuned for key opportunities to advocate for this once in a generation funding.
While the House and Senate have gone back and forth over these bills, NASP staff and members of the Government and Professional Relations Committee have been planning for upcoming advocacy opportunities and hosting the first Amplifying Student Voices in Advocacy event. With leadership from Tess Melendrez and Shlon Smith, current graduate students got to develop and flex their advocacy muscles by learning more about NASP policy priorities and contacting their elected officials. We hope to host more events like this going forward.
How to Stay Connected
With the new school year getting under way, we know our members are busier than ever. Make staying involved in advocacy a no-brainer by following NASP on all of our social media platforms, checking for action alerts here, and bookmarking the Policy Matters blog so you can check back for more policy updates. We will be sharing plenty of opportunities to advocate around National School Psychology Week and beyond, so don’t miss out!