The Failure of the NCGA to Address Lack of School Psychologists

When personalities are placed before principles, then people suffer.

When partisan politics are placed before the public good, then people suffer.

In the wake of the Parkland, FL school mass shooting, almost every state legislature at least brought forth legislation or formed a committee to suggest legislation to address how to stop the possibility of another occurrence in their schools.

In North Carolina, the House Select Committee on School Safety was convened to make suggestions and take action. One of revelations the committee realized was the absolute lack of school psychologists in the public school system. This was no secret. Most any school administrator could have told the North Carolina General Assembly that there was a severe shortage of school psychologists in our pubic schools.

In a session in which so much actions has been taken with an “urgency” not seen in years, one would think that an issue such as supplying school psychologists would have been one of the first pieces of legislation crafted.

Such is not the case.

Liz Schlemmer’s recent report on WRAL.com entitled “Post-Parkland bills to increase NC school psychologists appear stalled for this session” is further proof that many in Raleigh prioritize partisan politics more than helping schools. She reports:

Lawmakers focused on improving school safety for months have planned to address a significant shortage of school psychologists, but none of the related bills filed by legislators look like they are going anywhere during this legislative session.

“Everyone says we need more school psychologists in our schools for counseling, [to] keep our kids safe, all those good things,” said Representative Josh Dobson, who served on the House Select Committee on School Safety.

State representatives serving with him on that committee – convened just after the Parkland, Fla., shooting – have often said that improving mental health services in schools is part of the battle for safer schools. And North Carolina is facing a shortage of school psychologists who are on the frontline. Experts say the high number of students per psychologists in public schools is making it hard for them to do their jobs effectively (https://www.wral.com/post-parkland-bills-to-increase-nc-school-psychologists-appear-stalled-for-this-session/17644256/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

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credit: wral.com

And why did no piece of legislation come out of this session to help address the lack of school psychologists?

Partisan politics. Pure and simple.

Schlemmer further reports:

One bill proposed by House Republicans, including Dobson, would have streamlined the process for hiring school psychologists who have a national board certification. That would make it easier to license and hire qualified psychologists, especially those who move from other states. Experts say the state’s non-competitive pay is also an issue for recruitment – but that the proposed licensing change would help combat the shortage.

The proposal had broad support, and passed unanimously in the House, but the bill failed after the Senate tacked on a controversial and unrelated healthcare provision. Then the Senate stalled the House’s attempts to resurrect the psychology provision in another bill about licensing regulation in various industries. That bill did not make it past the legislature’s self-imposed deadline to send all statewide bills to the governor’s desk.

A session that passed a budget with a nuclear option and has put forth a number of constitutional amendments for November and has held meetings and votes until the wee hours of the night refused to even make more school psychologists in public schools a reality.

That’s a shame.

 

 

 

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