March 2021 Quarterly Hill Update
SSWAA’s government relations team in Washington has been hard at work on our policy priorities over the last few months. As 2020 came to a close, Congress passed a second stimulus package that included short-term extensions to the eviction moratorium, rental assistance, certain nutrition programs, unemployment insurance, expanded PPP loan eligibility for 501c6 associations, and provided additional support for foster youth.
President Joseph R. Biden’s inauguration in January led to executive orders targeting immigration reform, school reopening, federal student loans, and housing security. To provide more substantial coronavirus relief, Congress began the budget reconciliation process. Passed into law in March, the American Rescue Plan Act includes nearly $130B in grant funding for K-12 schools, as well as significant funding for mental health and youth and family wellness.
On Tuesday, March 2nd, Dr. Miguel Cardona was confirmed as Secretary of Education with strong bipartisan support. Cardona’s hearing was an encouraging shift in rhetoric from the last four years, with a strong focus on educational equity, safe reopening of schools, support for public education, and student mental health. Through our coalition work, SSWAA continues to maintain strong relationships with leadership at the Department of Education.
We continue to closely monitor and provide input on legislation related to school-based mental health services, support for the school social work profession, education funding, and student and family wellness. We have continued to hold meetings with key Member offices to discuss SSWAA’s priorities for 2021.
sswaa policy and advocacy
On the hill
SSWAA 2021 Legislative Priorities
School-Based Mental Health Services: The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant, long-lasting effect on the mental health of our students. However, schools facing pandemic-related budget cuts are unable to expand services to meet demand, with some districts even laying off school-employed mental health professionals such as school social workers. SSWAA advocates for policies that provide school districts with the resources to hire and retain school social workers and other qualified mental health professionals, and for policies which support the development and improvement of school-based mental health services.
Recognition for the School Social Work Profession: School social workers are the vital link between the home, school, and community, and provide a wide range of services to support students' academic, social, physical, and emotional needs. SSWAA is working to ensure that legislators in Congress understand the importance of the school social work profession, and that legislation related to educators and school support personnel includes explicit mention of school social workers.
Education Funding: 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 is 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.
keep Our PACT Act: Fully funds ESSA Title I-A and IDEA
Mental Health Services for Students Act: Provides funding for school-based mental health services
Save Education Jobs Act: Provides funding specifically for the retention of school staff, including social workers, and for the hiring of additional staff
Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act: Supports mental health and suicide prevention programs in schools
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!”