From VA Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s office:
Senate Unanimously Passes McClellan-Hashmi Bill to Increase Support Staff in Virginia’s K-12 Schools
Bill Raises Number of School Social Workers, Psychologists and Nurses in Districts Across Virginia
RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Senate of Virginia passed a bill by Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D-Richmond) and Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Chesterfield) to increase the number of school support staff per student in every school district across Virginia. SB 1325 passed unanimously, and now moves to the House for consideration.
Under current law, Virginia school districts are required to hire three specialized support staff for every 1,000 students. SB 1325 will require four support staff for every 1,000 students. Support staff include school social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, licensed behavior analysts and other licensed health and behavioral positions.
“Virginia parents, educators and school leaders have clearly spoken: we need more staff to support Virginia children’s mental and physical health every day,” Sen. McClellan said. “This legislation will mean more social workers, psychologists and nurses in every school district across Virginia. This is a huge step forward for Virginia schools that we desperately need right now.”
In 2021, McClellan passed the law (SB 1257) setting the standard of one specialized support staffer per 333 students, and led a budget amendment providing $50 million to fund these positions.
“Virginia’s children face an unprecedented degree of challenges today, and our school districts deserve greater support from the General Assembly,” said Sen. Hashmi, the Chair of the Senate Public Education Subcommittee. “SB 1325 helps alleviate many of the struggles our children face, especially the growing number of English Language Learners who have historically been neglected. I am proud to serve as the co-Chief Patron for SB 1325 and look forward to continuing the fight for public education funding in the Commonwealth.”
“Virginia students are coming to school with more needs than ever before,” said Rachael Deane, CEO of Voices for Virginia’s Children. “Recent data show that more than one-third of Virginia students reported feeling sad or depressed for two weeks or more. It is imperative that we help students succeed by investing in more mental health and social-emotional support professionals in schools. This legislation is what it looks like to center student needs in our policymaking.”
“The Senate budget and SB1325 are major positive steps toward creating great schools in every neighborhood through implementing the Standards of Quality as prescribed by the Virginia Board of Education,” said Ashley C. Kenneth, President & CEO of The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis. “This includes funding the state share of about 1,200 nurses and other licensed mental and behavioral health providers, also known as “specialized student support staff” and improving support for English language learners, who faced the steepest barriers during the pandemic. These investments put Virginia on the right path toward making sure every student can thrive.”
“SB1325 is an important step to address some of the many challenges that Virginia students are facing today,” said Fallon Speaker, Legal Director of the Youth Justice Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “Our students are struggling, and increasing the number of support staff available to them will help them emotionally, physically, and academically.”
Since 2009, there has been a drop in state funding for support staff in schools, as a result of a support cap that limited the level of support staff funded by the Commonwealth. Between 2009 and 2021, support staff in Virginia schools declined by 3,630 positions while student enrollment increased by more than 16,000 students.”