sswaa policy and advocacy
Federal Advocacy Update
School Social Workers Improving Student Success (SSWISS) Act (HR 7037)
During School Social Work Week in March 2022, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced the School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act (HR 7037), which would create a grant program that would allow schools to hire and retain school social workers. The bill would also provide technical assistance for school social work. As of September 2022, the bill has 16 cosponsors from around the country.
In addition to SSWAA, the bill has been endorsed by the Congressional Social Work Caucus (chaired by sponsor Barbara Lee), the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Black Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and several other organizations. In partnership with these groups, SSWAA hosted a briefing for Congressional staff in March on the importance of school social work and of the SSWISS Act. SSWAA members who attended our Legislative Institute in July also had the opportunity to advocate in front of Congressmembers in support of this bill.
Student Debt Forgiveness
After significant deliberation within the Department of Education and the White House, President Biden made a long-anticipated announcement regarding federal student loan debt forgiveness. In short, the President’s plan will forgive $10,000 for all Americans holding federal student loans, and $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. The plan would also extend the current payment pause through December 31st, reform income-based repayment plans to lower costs for borrowers on the remaining loans, and kickstart programs focused on lowering college costs.
Educator Shortages / Apprenticeships
In late August, the White House announced new efforts to combat the national teacher shortage. In addition to partnerships with key private sector job sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and ZipRecruiter and partnerships with union stakeholders such as AFT and NEA, the White House announced a new program with the Department of Labor and Department of Education. The program, a national teaching apprenticeship, would allow individuals looking to transition into a teaching career an alternate pathway to attaining the necessary certifications.
The White House announcement included language stating that the number of school social workers in our nation’s schools had increased by 54% as a result of ARP funds. As this number, though impressive, seemed higher than SSWAA members had been reporting generally, our team has reached out directly to Maureen Tracey Mooney, President Biden’s Education Policy Advisor, to request clarification. SSWAA has met with this advisor in the past to discuss ARP ESSER implementation. We are awaiting final feedback from their office on these statistics, but will share any clarification we receive with SSWAA.
To get more involved in our advocacy efforts, reach out to Rob Lucio (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Emilie Souhrada (email@example.com), the co-chairs of the Advocacy and Legislative Action Committee!
On the hill
SSWAA 2022 Legislative Priorities
School-Based Mental Health Services: The mental health needs of students have been growing for years, but the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have further exacerbated these challenges. Alarmingly high rates of mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety have left school-based mental health services personnel overburdened with higher caseloads, yet severe workforce shortages and tight budgets have left schools unable to expand these services quickly enough to meet demand.
Recognition for the School Social Work Profession: School social workers are the vital link between the home, school, and community, and provide services to support students' academic and social success. They work with school administrators, teachers, students, and families, providing leadership in forming school discipline policies, mental health intervention, support services, academic success plans, and crisis management.
Federal Funding for Education: Providing federal funding to support state and local education agencies is critical to ensuring that school social workers have the tools needed to do their jobs, and that students have equitable access to resources and opportunities.
Student and Family Wellbeing: It is the responsibility of school social workers to advocate for the students we serve, be it on the individual or Congressional level. Issues such as homelessness, hunger, inequitable opportunities, and harmful immigration policies have detrimentally impacted our students at an alarmingly increasing rate. Policies which promote housing and food security, pathways to citizenship, educational equity and racial justice would have a profoundly positive effect on students’ ability to succeed.
take action now
[Elected official’s name]:
I am a school social worker in [city or school district] writing to you in [opposition to/support of] [bill title or policy issue], which would [effect of bill, i.e.: set aside funding for schools to provide comprehensive school-based mental health services].
[This is where you make the case for your stance on the bill. Include 2-3 of the strongest points that support your position, either by demonstrating there is a problem which this bill can help to solve, or by explaining what harm the bill would cause. This could be statistics, qualitative statements, or anything else you’d like to highlight.]
[If you’d like, include a personal story here of your experiences and how this legislation would positively or negatively affect you, your students and their families, your school district, and/or your community.]
[If there is a specific action/vote taking place on the bill, mention it here.] I encourage you to show your support for [the school social work profession/children and families/student mental health/etc.] by voting [Yes/No] on [bill title].
“Hello, my name is [name], and I am a school social worker in [city/district]. I’m calling to ask that [Senator/Representative Name] vote [yes/no] on [bill title], which would [effect of bill]. This bill will [describe how the bill will affect you, your students and their families, and/or the community]. [If there is a specific action/vote taking place on the bill, mention it.] I hope to see the [Senator/Representative] [support/oppose] this legislation. Thank you for your time!”
Example Call Script
“Hello, my name is Jane Smith and I am a school social worker in Spokane. I am calling to ask that Senator Murray vote yes on SB 100, the School Nutrition Act, which would provide additional funding for free dinner programs in schools. Many of my students struggle with food insecurity, and it has a serious impact on their academic, social, and physical well-being. Funding this program would help to eliminate these barriers and ensure the success of my students and youth around the country. The bill will be up for a vote on the Senate floor on January 21st, and I hope to see the Senator support this legislation. Thank you for your time!”