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Department of Education COVID-19 Relief Use of Funds Guidance: What Do School Psychologists Need to Know?
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve closely followed and covered the federal government’s response to nationwide outbreaks, shutdowns, and school closures. Congress has appropriated emergency funds four times, most recently in the form of the American Recovery Plan Act, which we analyzed in a recent Policy Matters blog. While the impressive investments in America’s education and mental health care systems have given state education leaders hope for a successful reopening and recovery, there has been confusion surrounding what are allowable uses of these funds.
Today, the Department of Education released their long-awaited guidance on COVID-19 relief use of funds, which includes hiring additional school psychologists. Additionally, local education agencies (LEAs) may use their relief funds to provide professional development and training that increase awareness of mental health literacy for staff, evaluate and provide services to students who may have a disability under IDEA and Section 504, and implement evidence-based strategies to address the academic impact of lost instructional time. We are in communication with the Department of Education about if training new school psychologists qualifies as an allowable use. You can read the document in its entirety here.
While spending decisions are made by state and district leaders, school psychologists have an important role to play in advocating for effective uses of these funds, particularly when it comes to making new or increased investments into mental and behavioral health supports, social–emotional learning, and other services provided to students with disabilities. In their Policy Matters blog on American Rescue Plan Act funding and school mental health services, Dr. Nate von der Embse and Alexis Sanchez encourage school psychologists to communicate with district supervisors, send letters or emails to state departments of education or state representatives on House Education subcommittees, and include helpful resources like the NASP Practice Model.
Whether you're communicating with your school leaders, state and district education officials, or members of your state’s legislature, it’s important to be prepared with resources that could be helpful to their decision-making. You can assist your school in addressing the social–emotional needs of students and staff by sharing NASP and the American School Counselor Association’s guidance document, School Reentry Considerations: Supporting Student Social and Emotional Learning and Mental and Behavioral Health Amidst COVID-19 or Providing Effective Social–Emotional and Behavioral Supports After COVID-19. Talk to your leaders about the importance of equity in school reopening and recovery, and share Equity Considerations During and After COVID-19 School Closures. School psychologists have unique expertise on academic screenings, assessments, and interventions; be a resource to your leaders by sharing that knowledge and resources like Considerations for Academic Screening Upon the Return to School and Considerations for Academic Assessments and Interventions Upon the Return to School.
While we work to ensure that these recovery funds are put to the best use as possible, it’s also important to be forward thinking about long-term education funding. These COVID-19 emergency dollars are limited to use through 2024, so in order to secure the appropriate supports for students long-term, Congress must address the shortages of school psychologists through mechanisms with staying power. Keep an eye out for our forthcoming analysis of President Biden’s full FY 2022 budget, and in the meantime respond to this action alert in support of NASP’s appropriations asks.