Proposal Addresses Shortage Of School Social Workers

Social workers are being encouraged to contact their representatives in Washington, D.C., to support a new bill recently introduced in the House and Senate that aims to increase the number of school social workers.

Social worker and U.S. Rep. Edolphus "Ed" Towns (D-NY) introduced the Increased Student Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act, H.R. 6654. The companion bill was introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), S. 3364. If passed into law, the act would greatly improve the lives of children by creating a better trained and prepared school social work workforce, said Nancy McFall Jean, NASW senior government relations associate.

"Our nation faces a serious shortage of qualified school-employed professionals, putting students with issues that interfere with learning at greater risk for school failure," she said.

The bills seek to address the projected shortage of qualified staff by creating a federal grant program designed to increase the number of school social workers, school counselors, and school psychologists serving low-income local educational agencies (LEAs) by creating a pipeline between institutions of higher education and low-income school districts.

Higher education institutions with graduate training programs in school social work, school counseling, and school psychology that develop collaborative training and placement partnerships with LEA's would be eligible to apply for federal grant funds to hire and pay participating graduates to work in those schools, McFall Jean pointed out. In addition, program participants who remain employed in a low-income school setting for a minimum of five years will be eligible for loan forgiveness.

"By expanding the number of school social workers in low-income, high-need schools, we can improve the school and life success for students throughout the country," McFall Jean said.

Among the proposals' findings, schools served by low-income local educational agencies suffer disproportionately from a lack of services, with many schools sharing a single counselor, school social worker, or school psychologist with neighboring schools.

At the end of September, H.R. 6654 had 50 cosponsors while the Senate version of the bill had five cosponsors. Among those in the Senate cosponsoring the bill were Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

McFall Jean sent out an action alert to NASW members that encouraged them to contact their representatives to support the Increased Student Achievement Through Increased Student Support Act.

"Let them know that you are a social worker who is committed to improving the lives of our nation's children and you look forward to passage of this important legislation," she said.

NASW is also collaborating with the National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations to advance the bill on Capitol Hill, McFall Jean said.

The National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations is now The National Alliance of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel (NASISP).