Legislative Updates

NCSPA Legislative Update
Posted on June 28, 2019 by Digital Media Committee Chair

The NC General Assembly passed its budget bill, HB 966, on June 27, 2019, and the Governor announced his veto the next day. The General Assembly will return sometime in/around July to conduct a veto override session. Republicans will need to recruit Democrats to vote for the veto override in order for this budget bill to become law. If that does not occur, then there is a potential forecast over the Summer of “piecemealing” the budget and dividing it up into mini-budget bills in order to theoretically minimize further risk of any future veto. There are also negotiations on a potential compromise budget between the General Assembly and the Governor. The political dynamics this year are definitely different than last year, all of which will result in a delayed State Budget for the 2019-20 school year.

As you know, we asked for an increase in our salaries in addition to allotments for more positions. The allotments would be especially helpful for our districts with no School Psychologist or less than one. The salary increases would help with our recruitment efforts as they would make us more competitive for potential out-of-state candidates and new graduates in-state.  There are salary increases and increased position allotments that we would benefit from, as explained below; just not to the degree proposed in our legislation, “School Psychologist Compensation and Recruitment” SB 382/HB 482. We will keep working on these priorities and we need your help to make it happen.

Among the highlights in the Budget Bill (again, not yet law) for School Psychologists and the students they serve, are the following:

  1. 1-3% (not across the board) salary increases for 2019-20 to the Teacher’s Salary Schedule, depending on your “step” (i.e., years of experience) on that Schedule. This translates into comparable salary increases for most School Psychologists because our salary schedule is based off of the Teacher’s Salary Schedule.  Teachers with 25+ years, however, would get a 0 one-time bonus in October. Please see the proposed 2019-20 Teacher Salary Schedule and the Money Report excerpts below. 
  2. School Psychologists maintain their salary supplements for advanced degrees.
  3. Million increase in the Instructional Support Allotment (please see Money Report excerpt below) – this new increase in funding could be used to hire more School Psychologists. We encourage you to advocate for more School Psychologists to be hired by your school system.
  4. Small County Recruitment Bonus (please see Money Report excerpt below) – a new recruitment program that would afford a new School Psychologist, teacher or other instructional support personnel up to a ,000 signing bonus (1:1 matching dollars where the State would match .00 for every .00 in local funds with a State maximum of ,000) when newly employed in a “small county” school system that receives the official small county supplement from the State.
  5. School Mental Health Crisis Response Program:  DPI, Center for Safer Schools, DHHS, Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management, would work to develop a program for facilitating the temporary transfer of school mental health support personnel from a participating unit to a requesting unit during or after a crisis. Program will be proposed by March 15, 2020. This program could help us increase personnel to underserved and unserved students.
  6. School Safety Grants: Applications would include an assessment of the need for improving school safety within a public school unit. The application would identify current and ongoing needs and estimated costs associated with those needs. Application criteria and guidelines would be made available by State Superintendent of Public Instruction by August 1, 2019. 
    1. Grants for Students in Crisis: Allocated for students in crisis for school units to contract with community partners to provide or pay for the provision of crisis services including respite, training for therapeutic foster care families, evidence-based therapies for students and their parents/guardians, and any other crisis service to increase school safety. Grants for additional training on evidence-based practices for school mental health personnel to promote school safety also are included. 
    2. Grants for Training to Increase School Safety: Allocated for public school units to contract with community partners to provide training to help students develop healthy responses to trauma and stress. This can include training for School Psychologists and other mental health support personnel on suicide prevention, comprehensive treatments for students, community resilience models, MATCH-ADTC and more.
    3. Grants for Safety Equipment
  7. School Psychologist and School Counselor Position Study, Section 7B.11, set forth as follows:

“The Department of Public Instruction shall study and report on school psychologist and school counselor positions. The study and report shall include a review of at least the following information:

  1. The number of school psychologist and school counselor positions in the State and in each local school administrative unit.
  2. The allocation of school psychologists and school counselors in each local school administrative unit among schools within those units.  
  3. The methodology each local school administrative unit uses to determine the allocation of school psychologists and school counselors within the unit.
  4. The density of school psychologists and school counselors in each geographic region of the State.
  5. The number, percentage, and average salary of school psychologist and school counselor positions funded with State dollars and funded with non-State dollars.
  6. The extent to which local school administrative units provide school psychologists and school counselors with local salary supplements and the amounts of those salary supplements.
  7. Job descriptions posted for school psychologist and school counselor positions as compared to actual duties of school counselors.

      As part of its study, the Department shall promulgate a survey to local school administrative        units no later than October 1, 2019, on any topics identified in subsection (a) of this section that can be answered by a local school administrative unit. Local school administrative units shall respond to the survey by December 31, 2019. The Department shall consolidate the information reported by the local school administrative units, provide context and analysis, as necessary, and report the results of its study to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee and the Fiscal Research Division no later than March 1, 2020.” (emphasis added)

Several bills related to education and/or the work of psychologists were introduced outside of the budget process this session. Bills passed in the House or Senate have crossed over to the other chamber for consideration. Should they pass in the other chamber, they will go to the Governor’s desk for his signature. 

Legislation we’re watching: 

  • HB 75 School Mental Health Screening Study: DPI and DHHS will conduct a study to recommend a mental health screening process to identify students in NC at risk of harming themselves or others. The study will look at whether the state should require such a screener, which mental health professionals should conduct the screener, what behaviors or mental health diagnoses the screener should identify, the format of the screener, and whether it must be uniform across the state. Additional policies could be created to ensure appropriate follow up based on the results of the screener. This bill passed the House unanimously, but has not moved recently in the Senate. 
  • HB 297 Psychology Interjudicial Compact (PSYPACT): Establishes an agreement with psychologist licensing boards across state lines for licensed psychologists to practice across state lines through telemedicine. This bill does not directly impact our work but may have implications for NCSPA members who also are licensed by the NC Psychology Board.  See also, SB 361 which contains the PSYPACT; it passed the Senate and now goes to the House. 
  • HB 37 Child Sex Abuse/Extend Statute of Limitations: Extends NC’s statute of limitations from 21 to 38 years of age for a child sex abuse victim to bring a civil suit. This bill passed the House and has gone to the Senate.
  • Much, much more.

If you have any questions or you want to get involved with Advocacy and the LPP Committee, please contact Leigh Kokenes at leighkokenes@gmail.com and Mary Whitehouse at maryhwhitehouse@gmail.com.

Excerpts from the 2019 Proposed Money Report, as referenced above: 

***

NCSPA Legislative Update
Posted on June 01, 2019 by Digital Media Committee Chair

The good news is that millions of dollars for new School Psychologist positions are in both the House and Senate proposed budgets, as of May 28, 2019. Thanks to advocacy by NCSPA, our legislators in the General Assembly understand our dire workforce shortages, how the shortages adversely affect public school children, and they are taking action to fill the vacancies.  On our requested salary increases, the only such increases at present are those attached to the very different teacher salary increase plans proposed by the House and Senate.[1] Because the School Psychologist salary schedule is attached to the teacher salary schedule, any such raises would depend upon the final-enacted budget, which is not expected until late June or July, at the earliest.  Moreover, the question remains as to whether the Governor will sign or veto this budget bill, HB 966 Appropriations Act of 2019. For further background on the two (2) competing budget proposals, please see the House press conference and Senate press conference links at bottom under “Other References.”

NC House Budget Proposal

On May 3, 2019, the NC House passed the following ¼ set-aside (approximately 4.75 million dollars in 2019-20; and 7.55 million dollars in 2020-21; see highlighted language below) exclusively for additional School Psychologist positions within the otherwise competitive School Safety grants, specifically within the School Mental Health Personnel grants at Sections 7.36(a)(8) & 7.36(b):

“Grants for school mental health support personnel. – Of the funds appropriated to the Department of Public Instruction by this section for school mental health support personnel, the Superintendent of Public Instruction shall award grants to public school units, as follows:

  1. Grants shall be matched on the basis of two dollars (2.00 dollars) in State funds for every one dollar (1.00 dollar) in non-State funds.
  2. Grants may be used for any of the following purposes:
  3. To provide all or a portion of the salary and benefits costs needed to employ additional school mental health support personnel on a full-time, part-time, or contractual basis.
  4. To contract for other health support services.
  5. Training for school mental health support personnel receiving funds under this subdivision.
  6. At least twenty-five percent (25%) of the funds provided pursuant to this subdivision shall be used to provide all or a portion of the salary and benefits costs needed to employ additional school psychologists on a full-time or part-time basis.”

House version of HB 966, pp. 68-75 (as of May 3), and House Money Report, p. B-20.

Additionally, the House budget includes 24.6 million dollars recurring (8.2M + 16.4M) over the biennium (2019-2021) to increase all School Counselors’ salaries by placing them on the School Psychologist/Speech Pathologist Salary Schedule as follows:

The Senate, however, does not include that provision.

NC Senate Budget Proposal

On the NC Senate side, it introduced its budget bill during the week of May 28. Like the House, the Senate also enacted School Safety Grants (Section 7.36, pp. 46-50; see link to Senate version of HB 966 below) but the Senate budget does not include the ¼ express set aside for School Psychologists positions.  Instead, the Senate passed the following 8 million dollars (recurring) measure that would create a new School Psychologist Allotment where School Psychologist position funding would be separated out from the current “Instructional Support” allotment and given its own specific allotment as follows:

“SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS ALLOTMENT”

“SECTION 7.45.(a) Of the funds appropriated to the Department of Public Instruction by this act for the 2019-2020 fiscal year and subsequent fiscal years, the Department shall allocate a minimum of one school psychologist position per local school administrative unit. The State Board of Education shall adopt a formula for the distribution of any remaining funds as positions to local school administrative units on the basis of average daily membership.

SECTION 7.45.(b) G.S. 115C-105.25(b) is amended by adding a new subdivision to read: No positions shall be transferred out of the allocation for school psychologists except as provided in this subdivision. Positions allocated for school psychologists may be converted to dollar equivalents for contracted services directly related to school psychology. These positions shall be converted at the minimum salary for school psychologists on the "A" Teachers Salary Schedule."

Senate version of HB 966, Section 7.45, pp. 53-54 (as of May 28).

This School Psychologist Allotment is a positive development in that it will allow the State and DPI to more easily fund, track and spend state dollars exclusively for School Psychologists, rather than hypothetically compete for dollars at the local level within the larger Instructional Support allotment.  Additionally, the Senate’s plan sets forth a new state law that requires at minimum a 1 School Psychologist per Local Education Agency (LEA) allotment ratio.  Thankfully, the Senate realizes that the current situation with about 22 LEAs having no full-time School Psychologist is unacceptable, especially given the disproportionate vacancies in rural districts. Here is the relevant companion provision from the Senate Money Report:

“44  School Psychologist Allotment Fund Code: 1800

Reflects the transfer of 326 school psychologist positions from the Instructional Support Allotment and provides funding sufficient to hire an additional 100 school psychologist positions. The revised net appropriation for this new allotment is 35.4 million dollars in each year of the biennium.”

 Senate Money Report, p. B-20, Item 44 (as of May 29).

The Senate budget also proposes a “School Mental Health Crisis Response Program” as follows:

“SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS RESPONSE PROGRAM”

“SECTION 7.47.(a) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

  • Participating unit. – A local school administrative unit that elects to transfer school mental health personnel to a requesting unit for a temporary period of time.
    • Requesting unit. – A local school administrative unit requesting additional school mental health support personnel for a temporary period of time.
    • School mental health support personnel. – School nurses, school counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers.

SECTION 7.47.(b) The Department of Public Instruction and the Center for Safer Schools, in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Public Safety, Division of Emergency Management, shall develop a recommended program for facilitating the temporary transfer of school mental health support personnel from a participating unit to a requesting unit during or after a crisis. No later than March 15, 2020, the Department shall submit a report on the recommended program to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee and the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services. The report shall outline the recommended program and include, at a minimum, the following information:

  • A suggested protocol for receiving and relaying requests for additional, temporary school mental health support personnel.
  • Anticipated costs associated with the temporary transfer of school mental health support personnel during or after a crisis.
  • Descriptions of and data from any similar programs existing in other states.
  • Additional recommendations for improving the ability of local school administrative units to share school mental health support personnel, when necessary, and appropriate reporting metrics related to the recommended program.”

Next Budget Bill Steps Before Going to the Governor for Signature or Veto

In early June, the House and Senate will appoint “budget conferees” (key legislators from each Chamber) who will negotiate with each other in hours-long private meetings.  These House and Senate budget conferees will work behind closed doors over the next few weeks to determine the final budget bill provisions between the two competing versions. Around June 14, it is anticipated that they will roll out their “Conference Report,” which is essentially the final budget bill that each legislator can either vote for or against.  Significantly, once the budget conferees publish their “Conference Report” on HB 966, there can be no further amendments to the Budget Bill – it is only an up or down vote. That Conference Report will be the final Budget Bill that goes to the Governor’s desk.

Therefore, the decisions on what School Psychologist provisions make it into the final Budget Bill are in the hands of these budget conferees – very important people; and only over the next few days until around June 14.

Call to Action

We need every single School Psychologist in the State of North Carolina to ask their legislators (especially if they are a budget conferee) to please enact funding for both positions and increased salaries for our profession.  Without recruitment and retention incentives like salary increases and the Recruitment/Retention Bonus program set forth in our bills H482/S382 “School Psychologist Compensation and Recruitment,” we know that it will continue to be challenging to fill vacancies and recruit more School Psychologists to NC Schools.

Especially after students leave for their summer break, please take those days to get to know your legislator as a person.  It is a now or never moment for our profession – literally the next few days until Friday June 14. Your email, phone call, handwritten note, face-to-face meeting can make the difference.  We have found that every time one of our School Psychologists reaches out to their legislator to explain our plight, it is both an enlightening and compelling moment for that legislator.  Many legislators still do not know what we do for children on a day-to-day basis:  Today is the day you can change that. Make the call: tell your story. Here is a sample letter to send to your legislators.

Other References/News Sources

  1. https://www.wral.com/senate-budget-flips-script-on-raises-for-teachers-state-workers/18415480/
  2. https://www.ednc.org/2019/05/28/senate-unveils-budget-plan/
  3. https://www.wral.com/house-leaders-discuss-education-budget-teacher-salaries/18357085/
  4. https://www.wral.com/house-budget-delays-raises-till-january-because-of-availability-of-funds/18359943/
  5. NCDPI’s Financial Business Services Division: FY 2019-20 Budget Information “Proposed Budgets Comparison”  

[1] Senate proposed on average (not across the board) a 3.5% teacher salary increase over 2 years.  House proposed on average (not across the board) 4.8% teacher salary increase in year 1, 2019-20. 

Urgent: Legislative Action Necessary!
Posted on May 18, 2019 by Digital Media Committee Chair

The current draft of the House Budget Bill HB 966 would place School Counselors on the School Psychologist Salary Schedule with 8+ Million Dollars and 16+ Million Dollars. School Psychologists desperately need salary increases, too.

Call and Email your Senator today! Ask them to incorporate SB 382 "School Psychologist Compensation and Recruitment" into their Senate Budget.

Please see page B18, #26, of the Money Report

Also see Section 7A.1 of HB 966

Please share with your school psychologist colleagues.

You can find out who your Senator is here: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation

  • Click on the bubble next to NC Senate
  • Type your home address into the search box at the top right corner of the map
  • Once your Senator’s name shows up, click on his or her name for contact information
NCSPA Legislative Update
Posted on May 17, 2019 by Digital Media Committee Chair

Contact your Senator TODAY & OVER THE WEEKEND and ask them to incorporate SB 382 “School Psychologist Compensation & Recruitment” into the Senate budget! Call, email, meet in the district: all of the above! Keep up this contact until you see in the news that the NC Senate has passed its budget proposal.

You can find out who your Senator is here: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation

  • Click on the bubble next to NC Senate
  • Type your home address into the search box at the top right corner of the map
  • Once your Senator’s name shows up, click on his or her name for contact information

Possible Talking Points:

  1. NC is in a triage situation with a dire need for more School Psychologists. According to 2019 DPI data, there are now only 772 school psychologists employed in our public schools for over 1.5 million students across NC.
  2. There has been some confusion in the media and elsewhere on the significant differences between School Psychologists' work and other health professionals in our schools.  School Psychologists' training and expertise are more rigorous than others, especially regarding Exceptional Children, related federal legal obligations, and complex threat assessments to improve School Safety.
  3. In NC, 22 school systems and most of our 172 charter schools do not have even 1 School Psychologist. That is hundreds of thousands of children in NC who are entirely unserved by the highest-trained mental health professionals in any school. Please see attached Vacancy Data,  SISP Workforce Chart, and NC Stakeholders Comments and Questions.
  4. NC has a ratio of roughly 1 School Psychologist to two thousand students. The nationally-recommended ratio is 1:500-700 students.
  5. In short, for every 1 School Psychologist we currently have, we need 2 more.
  6. Unfortunately, NC's ratios are among the worst in the nation.
  7. NC is losing its own NC natives who prepare in 1 of our 5 School Psychology Training Programs (Appalachian State, Western Carolina, NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, ECU) and then leave the state based on a ten thousand dollar differential. Raising School Psychologists salaries by ten thousand will fix this problem - the solution in SB 382/HB 482.
  8. What is the cost of providing students with Adequate Psychological Support? Federal Bureau of Labor statistics states that the average salary for a school psychologist was 77,430 dollars.  NC’s State Salary Schedule for School Psychologists – who are required to have Master’s degrees – starts at 44,000 dollars/year and tops out at 64,020 dollars. Our maximum state-funded salary is 13,000 dollars below the national average.

Our public school children, especially the neediest of these with disabilities and mental health diagnoses, need your help kick starting a triage-turnaround to recruit and retain more School Psychologists in NC. Please help by incorporating SB 382 into the Senate Budget.


Helpful Hint:  Make your story personal; how have you saved a student’s life; how have you ensured that they graduated.  You know your story of School Psychology: NOW is the time to tell it!

NCSPA Legislative Update
Posted on April 24, 2019 by Digital Media Committee Chair

If you are definitely joining us in Raleigh on May 2nd, you must RSVP ASAPbit.ly/NCSPALegislativeDay2019

  • We will meet on May 2nd at the Dept. of Public Instruction (DPI) “Education Building” (301 N. Wilmington St) at 8:30 a.m. We have the 150 South Room reserved. It is the room on the left, directly behind the front desk when you enter the Education Building. This will be our “launch pad” throughout the morning. 
  • The time of the State Board of Ed meeting recognition of our NASP award recipients (Leigh Kokenes and Rhonda Armistead) has been moved to 11:05 a.m. This time could change again. If it changes, we will send out an updated schedule on May 1st.
  • Dress in business professional attire (i.e. suits, ties). This is very important!  

If you cannot be in Raleigh on May 2nd, consider setting up a phone conference with your legislator(s) for that day. This is an important time for us to communicate about our School Psychologist Compensation and Recruitment bills (House Bill 482 and Senate Bill 382) and why these are so important for the safety of North Carolina students! If you don't have time to call, please send an email. We have sample letters you can copy directly from our website on the Advocacy page. 

View all updates >>

 

See previous “Lobbyist Loft” posts from recent monthly issues of the NCSPA Newsletter: