Bill Will Help Schools Fund Social Workers, Nurses, Health and Behavioral Professionals
RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Virginia Senate passed Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) bill (SB 490) to increase specialized student support positions in schools across the Commonwealth. The bill passed on a 27-13 vote with bipartisan support.
The bill builds upon legislation Sen. McClellan passed last year (SB 1257) to require school boards to provide at least three specialized student support positions per 1,000 students. This year’s bill will raise that standard to four per 1,000. School support positions include: school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and other licensed health and behavioral positions.
“This bill takes urgent action to provide support for the mental and physical health of Virginia public school students,” said Sen. McClellan. “As we all recover from the impacts of the pandemic, it’s crucial that we provide the support staff necessary for Virginia schools. This bill will build off the progress we made last year to put more social workers, nurses, health and behavioral professionals in our schools at a time when the need for their services is greater than ever before.”
“It is past time that we invest in full and fair school funding for our students, and the passage of this legislation is an important step,” said Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond), who introduced the companion bill in the House to SB 490 as introduced to fully implement the Board of Education’s recommended Standards of Quality. “The past few years have shown an acute need for additional support staff in our schools. I have heard from teachers, parents, and students across Virginia about the impacts of COVID-19 on students’ mental health. Support staff, whether they be nurses, social workers, or psychologists, are vital in ensuring that we can support students during this tumultuous time. I remain committed to pursuing full school funding for all Virginia students. I am looking forward to continuing to work with Senator McClellan on this critical issue. “
“It is imperative to all the children in the Commonwealth that we fully fund the revised Standards of Quality and eliminate the State’s cap on school support staff,” said Dr. James J. Fedderman, President of the Virginia Education Association. “Schools are struggling to provide adequate staffing, resulting in insufficient counselors, social workers, instructional aides, and administrative and custodial staff. The pandemic has only widened these gaps, and students need full and fair school funding more than ever before. By investing in our students in a strategic and sustained way, we can better serve our children today, while planning for the students of the future.”
“SB490 takes a critical, significant stride toward fulfilling Virginia’s Constitutional duty of providing a free, high-quality public education for all students,” said Brionna Nomi, Fund Our Schools leader and Senior Organizer and Interim Co-Director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s Youth Justice Program. “An entire generation of students has now moved through our K-12 system under austere cuts made more than a decade ago. It’s well past time for the Commonwealth to make large, bold and ongoing investments in our students, teachers and staff, so that all students and all communities can thrive, regardless of zip code.”