On Sept. 12, 2018, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced a new and improved Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act to provide dedicated funding to states to lower the staffing ratios for school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers. The bill is similar to the former ESSCP that was funded under No Child Left Behind and has been given the same title. The new iteration of the bill is a vast improvement over the previous version. ASCA and the National Association of School Psychologists, the School Social Work Association of American and the American Psychological Association worked with Merkley and Clark's offices to update the previous ESSCP and helped their offices introduce the bill. ASCA is pleased to join NASP, SSWAA and APA as original endorsing organizations of this important legislation.
The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would:
Establish two five-year renewable grant programs to staff elementary and secondary schools with school counselors, psychologists and social workers, effectively by providing federal grants to states to disburse to school districts.
Funding in the previous program was distributed entirely through competitive grants, and a relatively low number of school districts in a few states received grants each year. The new program would provide funding for all 50 states, and because matching funds are required, states receiving the grants demonstrate a commitment to improving student mental health and wellness.
The bill requests an initial authorization level of $5 billion the first year. ASCA is coordinating advocacy efforts with Merkley and Clark’s offices. We will keep members up-to-date with the process and will develop an action alert to solicit additional co-sponsors in the near future. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to contact your members of congress.