Bill to Increase Student Support

Blanche LincolnBlanche Lincoln (D-Ark) reintroduced the bill in March.

On March 5, during National Social Work Month, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) reintroduced the Increased Student Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act (S. 538, formerly S. 3364). The bill will establish a school social work workforce that is more prepared and better trained to deal with psychosocial and emotional issues that can hinder educational performance. It addresses the projected shortage of qualified school-employed professionals.

"Each day, teachers in our schools are tasked not only with addressing the academic needs of students, but also the behavioral, social, and emotional needs," Lincoln said in a press release posted on her Web site. "When they are left to address these emotional and behavioral issues, they have less time to deliver high quality academic instruction to the rest of the students in their class. Additionally, teachers often do not have the training or expertise to deal with many of the emotional issues their students face. Children overcoming mental illness or family issues need the assistance of a trained professional, such as a school psychologist, school counselor, or school social worker."

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) reintroduced the companion bill, H.R. 1361, formerly H.R. 6654, also on March 5.

The Increased Student Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act would authorize competitive, renewable, five-year grants for partnerships between low-income local educational agencies (LEAs) and universities with graduate programs in school counseling, school social work and school psychology. The goal is to raise the number of program graduates employed by low-income LEAs. Institutions of higher education who enter into partnerships with LEAS will be eligible to apply for federal grant funds to employ and pay participating graduates to work in those schools. As an incentive to encourage graduate students to participate in the program, those who work in a low-income school for at least five years will be eligible for loan forgiveness.

"The reintroduction of this bill was imperative because issues surrounding the need for student support in the academic setting persist for many youth and their families which is a significant area of practice for many social workers," said NASW senior lobbyist Nancy McFall Jean

Shortly after the bills were reintroduced, NASW issued an action alert, urging members to ask their representatives to cosponsor the act.

"Members should let them know that the Increased Student Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act deserves their co-sponsorship, as it will help enhance the lives of underserved children across the nation," said McFall Jean.

As the News went to press, the act had garnered 22 House co-sponsors and four Senate co-sponsors.