NASP Participates in Congressional Briefing and Capitol Hill Day Promoting Student Support Services Bill

Article excerpt

Over the last few months, NASP staff and leaders have been working with legislative staff for U.S. Representative Towns (NY), Representative Linda T. Sanchez (CA), Senator Lincoln (AR), and Senator Clinton (NY) to develop abili that would help remedy the shortage of school psychologists, social workers, and counselors in low-income rural and urban districts. This bill, the "Increased Student Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act" creates a federal grant program designed to increase the number of school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers serving low-income local educational agencies (LEAs). Lowincome LEAs are defined as those (a) in which not less than 20% of the students served by the agency are from families with incomes below the poverty line; (b) with ratios of student to practitioner that are exceeding the maximum recommended ratios by 10% or more (Note: for school psychologists this would be ratios where there are more than 1111 students per school psychologist); and (c) that have been identified for improvement or corrective action that include at least one school that has been identified for school improvement, corrective action, or restructuring. Institutions of higher education with graduate training programs in school counseling, school psychology, and school social work that develop collaborative training and placement partnerships with low-income LEAs are eligible to apply for grant funding. Grant funding for this program can be used to build the capacity of graduate training universities and local school districts to collaboratively train, recruit, employ, and retain school psychologists, counselors, and social workers for service in high-need, low-income rural and urban schools.

On July 10, 2008 NASP joined the American Counseling Association (ACA), American School Counselor Association (ASCA), and the School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) in cosponsoring a bicameral Congressional briefing to educate elected officials, legislative staff, and other policy makers about the shortage of school-employed mental health professionals working in low-income schools. U.S. Representative Ed Towns welcomed the briefing participants and emphasized the need to provide students with the support that they need in order to maximize their potential for learning. Dr. Judy Wicker, Coordinator of Special Education and a school psychologist from Mesa County in Grand Junction, CO led off a panel of experts with her view of the importance of providing adequate student support personnel in rural communities. Judy expressed the difficulty she has had recruiting and retaining school psychologists in her county. She noted that at one point, she struggled to fill three school psychologist positions because she had recruited them from outside of the area and after 1 year, all three had decided to move back to where they had come from for personal reasons. Judy believes that rural school districts have their best opportunity for recruiting and retaining school psychologists when they use a "home grown" approach. She shared her personal experience getting her school psychology degree through this approach. As a former special education teacher and school principal, Judy sawthe importance and critical need for school psychologists. This prompted her to look into a rural school psychology training program offered by the University of Colorado at Denver that recruited potential students from their home communities, trained them using creative course scheduling, provided financial assistance to support tuition and travel expenses involved in completing the training, and then supported them with on-site supervision during their practicum and internship so that they could complete their training without ever having to move from their local communities. Through this program, Judy earned her school psychologist credential and then worked as a school psychologist for several years before being promoted to her current position as special education coordinator. …