Bill Will Help Schools Fund Social Workers, Nurses, Mental Health Professionals
RICHMOND, VA – Today, the House passed Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) bill (SB 1257) to invest an additional $50 million per year into Virginia schools by implementing some of the Virginia Board of Education’s Standards of Quality recommendations for increased school support staffing. The bill passed the House 63-37 and now heads to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk.
Sen. McClellan’s bill will take steps toward meeting the support needs of students in Virginia by providing and funding more social workers, nurses, and mental health professionals in our schools to address students’ needs. The bill will require each school board to provide at least three specialized student support positions per 1,000 students.
“Virginia schools need more social workers, nurses and mental health professionals, but too many school districts lack the funding to provide adequate support staff levels,”said Sen. McClellan. “As students navigate the additional stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever that Virginia schools have the support staff necessary to meet the needs of our students. SB 1257 is the first step toward fully funding the Board of Education’s recommended Standards of Quality to address lasting inequities in the Commonwealth’s education system.”
Since 2009, there has been a 39% drop in state funding for support staff in schools, as a result of a support cap that limited the level of support staff funded by the Commonwealth. Support staff in Virginia has dropped by nearly 2,000 positions over that time period, while student enrollment increased by 55,000 students. The declines were four times greater in divisions with the highest share of students of color.
“This legislation prioritizes our students during an unprecedented public health crisis and is a significant step toward fully funding Virginia Standards of Quality,” said Rachael Deane, Director of the Youth Justice Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “We applaud Senator McClellan for her work to champion this legislation and ensure that all students have access to schools that meet their unique needs.”
As originally introduced, the bill and a companion bill from Del. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) would have fully implemented and funded the Board of Education’s recommended Standards of Quality and invested an additional $1 billion per year in the public schools.
Jennifer McClellan was elected to the Senate of Virginia in 2017 after serving 11 years in the House of Delegates. She has been a leader on fighting climate change, strengthening public education and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline, protecting voting rights, enacting criminal justice reform, combating domestic and sexual violence, and fighting discrimination of all kinds.