Public Comments for: SB1257 - SOQ; school board to provide at least three specialized student support positions.
Last Name: Stewart Organization: The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis Locality: Richmond

More than a decade ago, the General Assembly put in place a support cap which severely limited the level of support staff the state funded. As a result, since 2009, there has been a 39% drop in state funding for support staff in schools. Despite student enrollment increasing by 55,000 students, support staff in the state has dropped by nearly 2,000 positions. On top of that, the declines were four times greater in divisions with the highest share of students of color. This amended bill puts us on a path to begin correcting for these inequitable cuts put in place a decade ago, and comes at a time when students will need these support services more than ever. We know from extensive surveys that students are experiencing unprecedented mental health challenges at this time, and addressing their accumulated trauma over the years to come is a key part of getting them back on track. Additional social workers, psychologists, nurses, licensed behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions funded through this bill will be critical for attending to students’ health and emotional needs and setting them up to reach their potential in the classroom. The Commonwealth Institute and the other 16 member organizations of the Fund Our Schools coalition fully support this legislation.

Last Name: Rachael Deane Organization: Legal Aid Justice Center Locality: Richmond

The Legal Aid Justice Center supports this bill, which will set standards for specialized support staff in public schools and direct state funds for these positions. Support staff such as school pyschologists, nurses, and social workers are more critical than ever to address the needs of students during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Name: Duke Locality: Glen Allen

Please support SB1303 in lieu of substitution bill. Schools have been closed long enough and need a clear plan to re-open. Many will not do this on their own until they are required to by law. Legislate required opening of face to face will get the ball rolling with re-opening plans from all schools. Put Virginia children's needs at the table with teacher unions. Do schools exist to provide comfortable jobs for teachers, or DO THEY EXIST TO EDUCATE CHILDREN? The answer is clear, educating children is the reason for schools, and it is not happening adequately in the virtual format.

Last Name: Washington Organization: Retired Educator Locality: Midlothian

Please support our students by ration of 3 support staff to every 1,000 students in every support staff positions: social workers, psychologists, nurses, licensed behavior analysts and assistants, and other licensed health and behavioral positions.

Last Name: Harris-Braxton Organization: Virginia First Cities (VFC) Locality: Richmond

Virginia First Cities (VFC) Supports SB1257 that funds the Standards of Quality. VFC believes funding required to fund this bill is of the highest priority, especially in areas that provide additional assistance to challenged schools. VFC also strongly supports efforts that provide training and mentoring for school principals.

Last Name: Reid Locality: Midlothian

As a retired CCPS school psychologist I remember when the media talked about Columbine or later Virginia Tech disasters, it was poor John Q Public. How could we know about these things? Research now show that there are always signs and symptoms if there is someone present to notice! There is also a myth that students won’t tell us but I can tell you that is not true. Students want to help themselves and their friends if given the opportunity and skills to talk about mental health issues. It is no longer acceptable to say sorry after the fact. It is time to do something. Prevention and intervention need to occur in the buildings where the students reside . Services in schools give us the best opportunities to hear what students need (like how to help a friend and community resources). I am writing to support Senate Bill1257 because I know what the unmet needs have been for years And those needs are now exeracerbated by the COVID crisis, political unrest, and economic insecurity. Intervention does work and can prevent acts of violence against others as well as suicide. Most serious mental health issues develop in mid to late adolescence and early services can support families. Milder problems can be helped by giving students stress management skills. Earlier intervention is also cheaper since expense is always a concern.

Last Name: Bowker Locality: Richmond

Please pass SB 1257 to ensure 3 positions to every 1,000 students for support staff positions. It is vital to create additional positions to support students, especially in light of the pandemic and its consequences for students. Please ensure that students are supported when they return to school.

Last Name: Griffey Organization: Voices for Virginia's Children Locality: Henrico

Voices for Virginia’s Children supports equitable education funding for all students to succeed. Support position are critical to ensure children’s well-being is supported inside and outside the classroom. They help promote trauma-informed and trauma-responsive school settings and can help identify and address challenges children are experiencing that create barriers to learning. Please support SB 1257 and the Senate’s approach to providing additional specialized support positions for the next school year.

Last Name: Forrester Locality: Richmond

My name is Anne Forrester and I am an ESL teacher in Richmond. I am urging in the strongest possible terms that you support HB1257 which would provide critically needed social, emotional and mental health support staff to serve Virginia's students. I can tell you first hand that although policy makers usually talk about "learning loss" , the social, emotional and mental toll of the pandemic on our students is by far the most urgent issue. The support staff ratio provided in this bill is imperative to allowing students to heal from the experience of living through this past year and then move on to learning.

Last Name: Ward Organization: Virginia Public Education Partners Locality: Midlothian

I support HB1257. Now more than ever before, our students need these positions funded and ratios of 3 positions to every 1,000 students should be maintained for social workers, psychologists, nurses, licensed behavior analysts and assistants, and other licensed health and behavioral positions. Accumulated trauma and mental health issues for students have been magnified as a result of the pandemic, and these positions, which the state has been underfunding for more than a decade now, are critical to helping to address those challenges and ensure students are supported in their return to school. Please support HB1257.

End of Comments