Legislative Updates

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. 

NCSPA Legislative Update
Posted on April 10, 2019 by Digital Media Committee Chair

Attention all NC School Psychologists!

Please join us in Raleigh on May 2nd, 2019 for NCSPA’s first annual Legislative Day! Call your legislators TODAY to schedule your meetings!

RSVP by April 19th via this form:  RSVP to NCSPA Leg Day 2019

8:30 a.m. : Meet at the Dept. of Public Instruction (DPI) building for the State Board of Education Meeting where Leigh Kokenes (2019 NASP School Psychologist of the Year) and Rhonda Armistead (2019 NASP Recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award) will be recognized. This meeting is open to the public.

8:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. : Meet with your NCGA Senator and Representative

IMPORTANT: Make your own appointments with your legislators WEEKS in advance. Yes, that means please start now.

Find NC legislator contact info here: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation

Lunch is on your own! (Or, depending on RSVPs, perhaps we will meet somewhere together and debrief)

If you are interested in joining us in Raleigh:

  1. Please RSVP by April 19th RSVP to NCSPA Leg Day 2019. We will send you a logistics packet which will include FAQs.
  2. Please make an appointment to meet with your NC Senator and Representative for May 2nd ASAP. You can find contact information here: https://www.ncleg.gov/RnR/Representation
    1. If you plan on attending the SBOE meeting (8:30-10:00), we recommend setting your appointments between 8:00-8:30 or 10:00-12:00. It is about a 10 minute walk between any two places you will be. Expect these meetings to take about 15 minutes each.
    2. We recommend you copy legislators’ assistants on emails.
    3. Follow up with phone calls and emails until you are able to confirm an appointment.
    4. Let us know ASAP if you are having trouble getting in touch with your Representative or Senator.
    5. Remember: Your legislators represent you and want to hear from you.
  3. Know before you go:
    1. Read our legislation Senate Bill 382 and House Bill 482 School Psychologist Compensation and Recruitment
    2. Thankfully, NCSPA has done your homework for you. Please see our Legislative Agenda, Infographic & More! We will also send a logistics packet which will include tips on how to effectively get messages across to legislators.

Any questions, feel free to contact Leigh Kokenes leighkokenes@gmail.com, Mary Whitehouse (maryhwhitehouse@gmail.com, or Melissa Mascari melissaflittlewood@gmail.com

View all updates >>

 

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