Tuesday, May 4, 2021 (“May the Fourth Be With You”) is the NC School Psychology Association’s (NCSPA) Third Annual Legislative Day. School psychologists from across North Carolina will be advocating through letters, emails, and both video and audio calls to their NC General Assembly legislators. Some members will be meeting with their legislators in Raleigh, practicing appropriate safety measures of social distancing and face coverings while in buildings. Many will be participating on Twitter and Facebook, using the hashtag #NCSPAadvocates and sharing about how they support NC students and families.
The mental health needs of our children, both with and without disabilities, continue to exist and are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the full impact will likely not be known for years, it is known that stress due to school disruption, economic instability, social injustice and inequality issues and the disruption of everyday life activities may lead to increased need for mental and educational supports for children and adolescents (National Association of School Psychologists, 2021). School Psychologists provide crisis intervention, academic and behavioral intervention, counseling, psycho-educational evaluations and support students and school staff.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) recommends a staff ratio of 1 School Psychologist to every 500 students, while the current NC staffing average ratio is 1 School Psychologist to every 1,943 students. As outlined in our NCSPA 2021 Legislative Agenda, thousands of North Carolina students do not have full access to School Psychologists because they are difficult to both recruit and retain. North Carolina struggles to compete with the School Psychologist salary schedules of states (TX, NY, and PA) that have surpluses of graduates from School Psychology training programs. This challenge of recruiting and retaining School Psychologists in North Carolina directly impacts the ability to support the educational and mental health needs of all students.
This year during NCSPA’s Legislative Day, NC School Psychologists will be asking legislators to support recruitment and retention of School Psychologists. This is timely as House Bill 749: Healthy Students – School Psychs/COVID-19 was filed in the NC House last week. This bill supports recruitment and retention of NC School Psychologists through salary increases, supplements for National Certified School Psychologists, stipends for intern trainees, and hiring a recruitment and retention coordinator at the NC Department of Public Instruction.