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Federal Advocacy Update: Meeting With White House Officials, Department of Ed, and Members of Congress
To maximize the tremendous opportunity to address the shortages in school psychology and expand the role of school psychologists, the NASP Government and Professional Relations Committee, NASP leaders, and NASP staff have been busy engaging with federal officials, members of Congress, and the White House. We are actively engaged in efforts to develop policy solutions and secure federal investments to address the shortages and increase access to school psychological services. Below is a high-level summary of our activities over the last several weeks and a preview of some upcoming events we have planned. Please don’t ever doubt that your voice makes a difference. The opportunities before us are a direct result of our collective work and advocacy over the last decade or more!
NASP is thrilled that President Biden has pledged to double the number of school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers. NASP recently met with members of the Domestic Policy Council and officials from the Office of Management and Budget, both of which play a significant role in shaping and funding federal policy. They committed to an open and collaborative relationship with NASP as we brainstorm the appropriate federal policy to address the shortages in a way that addresses all aspects of the problem—including increasing access to graduate preparation opportunities and diversifying the workforce. We are pleased to have such a collaborative relationship with the administration and are hopeful that we will make meaningful progress toward our shared goals.
Department of Education
Secretary Cardona has been making the rounds to various coalitions to introduce himself and hear from stakeholders, including NASP. NASP has also had several solo meetings with other Department of Education officials, and we are in the process of scheduling a standalone meeting with the Secretary. These officials are committed to helping schools reopen safely and providing them with guidance to make sure they have the capacity to address the needs of students. They are very focused on addressing disruptions in learning; ensuring schools are meeting the social–emotional, mental, and behavioral health needs of students; and promoting equity. Collectively, educators could take the lessons learned from this past year and support a systemic shift in how we educate our nation’s children. To do so, we must be willing to have hard conversations and make the necessary changes needed to ensure all students in every school are thriving.
We have hit the ground running with the Hill. NASP has held approximately 50 virtual meetings and countless email correspondence to introduce NASP to new members of Congress and give an overview of our policy priorities (with an emphasis on the shortages). We are also reconnecting with longstanding allies to start to shore up support for our priorities. Up until now, the main focus has been on the American Rescue Plan Act, which President Biden recently signed into law. There was significant education funding, including billions for IDEA. Check out this summary of what was included in that legislation. In short, states will soon receive hundreds of millions of dollars to address COVID related education issues. Because much of this money is very flexible at the state and local levels, school psychologists need to be at the table to make sure this money is spent well. NASP is preparing some materials to help you in these conversations, and we will share them as soon as they are available.
Building off of your advocacy during the convention, we are working on several pieces of legislation and hope to introduce these in the coming weeks. These bills all relate to addressing the shortages by providing states and districts with investments to recruit and retain school psychologists, and other mental health professionals, incentivizing district/university partnerships and providing loan forgiveness to those who work in hard to staff areas, and expanding access to graduate preparation, particularly at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions. We continue to support and engage in other federal legislation related to NASP priorities. Check out the legislative map on the NASP website for more information about relevant federal bills and those moving through your state legislature.
In addition, we are gearing up for FY 2022 Federal Appropriations and are working with our Congressional allies and officials within the administration to devise a strategy to secure additional funding for the Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant, the School Based Mental Health Services Grant, and other funding streams that support availability of comprehensive school psychological service and school psychologists. In the coming weeks, we will be relying on you to elevate the importance of these investments and pressure your members of Congress to support these programs.
In the coming months we will be hosting a virtual Congressional briefing focused on the shortages. Furthermore, April 26–30 is National Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Week (www.nasisp.org). Stay tuned for more information about the advocacy activities this coalition has planned. One event to note is a virtual Congressional briefing that will feature our own School Psychologist of the Year, Julia Szarko. We will bring you more exciting opportunities for advocacy action in the near future!