sswaa policy and advocacy
Federal Advocacy Update
School Social Workers Improving Student Success (SSWISS) Act (HR 7037)
During School Social Work Week in March 2023, Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) re-introduced the School Social Workers Improving Student Success Act HR 1415, 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 March 2023, the bill has one cosponsor.
One of SSWAA’s strongest allies on Capitol Hill is the Congressional Social Work Caucus, led by Congresswoman Barbara Lee. The CSWC works in tandem with the National Association of Social Workers, the National Association of Black Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, and other stakeholders to advance social work in America’s schools and communities.
School Social Work Week
School Social Work Week brought new Congressional allies into the fold, and SSWAA was able to successfully spread its message with new offices and continue growing our footprint on Capitol Hill. H.Res.203 - Expressing support for the designation of the week beginning March 5, 2023, as "School Social Work Week" was also introduced.
The Supreme Court is hearing legal challenges to President Biden’s Executive Order from August 2022. Following over a year of internal debate, the president ordered the cancellation of $10,000 in student debt for borrowers making less than $125,000 a year and couples making less than $250,000 a year. The Executive Order also expanded the debt forgives to a maximum of $20,000 for borrowers that had received Pell Grants.
The Supreme Court is now reviewing whether the plan exceeded President Biden and the Education Department’s legal authority, with a final decision coming in the early summer. However, the Biden Administration has secured some relief for millions of borrowers after fundamentally altering payment repayment programs tied to an individual’s income. Now, more borrowers will become eligible for $0 payments under the new revenue rules. The administration has streamlined loan forgiveness for people who work in the public sector, canceled the debts of students taken advantage of by predatory colleges and universities, and unveiled an income-driven repayment plan that could reduce how much borrowers have to pay.
Educator Shortages / Apprenticeships
In August 2022, 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 generally been reporting, 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 await final feedback from their office on these statistics but will share any clarification we receive with SSWAA.
Want to get involved nationally?
Need legislative consultation on a state level?
We look forward to consulting with individual states to address specific legislative and policy needs. We are available to discuss advocacy strategies, review legislation, provide feedback, and connect with other states to share their successes and challenges. Contact the Advocacy and Legislative Action Committee co-chairs, Robert Lucio (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Emilie Souhrada (email@example.com).
On the hill
SSWAA 2023 Legislative Priorities
School-Based Mental Health Services: The mental health needs of students have been growing and have exacerbated recent challenges which highlighted the need for increased mental health funding throughout America’s schools. 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, social, emotional, behavioral, and mental health 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 that promote housing and food security, LGBTQIA+ rights, pathways to citizenship, educational equity, and racial justice would have a profoundly positive effect on students’ ability to succeed.
Workforce Diversity and Development: School social workers face increased demands in today’s environment and serve an increasingly large and diverse population of students and faculty. Policies should address the quality and quantity of training programs for mental and behavioral health professions and seek to address shortages in the school mental health services workforce.
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!”