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Legislative Affairs

Every Student Succeeds Act: The president signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law on Dec. 10, 2015. ESSA replaces the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001. ASCA has worked diligently to preserve many of the school counseling provisions that were in NCLB and to support expanded language incorporated into ESSA.

What school counselors need to know: The bulk of school counseling provisions and opportunities for funding are found in Title IV, part A: “Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants” of ESSA. ASCA is pleased with the Senate and House negotiations and believes this section has many opportunities for districts to expand their school counseling programs.
 
The purpose of Title IV is to increase the capacity of states, school districts, schools and communities to:
  • Provide all students with access to a well-rounded education (This section refers to STEM, the arts, PE and other subject areas.)
  • Improve school conditions for student learning (This section has several school counseling provisions, including the language “provide mentoring and school counseling to all students.”)
  • Improve the use of technology to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students
In NCLB, this same section was composed of multiple competitive grant programs, allowing very few school districts an opportunity to implement new programs.
In ESSA, Title IV will now be formula funded much like Title I. Its expected authorization, which is based on law outlined in the Budget Control Act, should include a sizeable amount of money that would be formula funded to the states and in turn formula funded to school districts. At least 20 percent of these funds must be spent on the “well-rounded” students programs, and at least 20 percent must be spent on the “school conditions and student learning” programs. Additionally, any school district receiving at least $30,000 will be required to complete a needs assessment to show where the funds are needed most and to outline the district’s plans for these funds. ASCA is extremely pleased with the dedicated funding provision as well as the addition of a needs assessment.
 
Additionally, school districts receiving Title I dollars will be required to fill out a state plan. That plan will now include explicit language around comprehensive school counseling services, professional development for school counselors and career counseling services. Furthermore, language was added to include input from school counselors and other school staff on the required School Wide Program Plan, which will replace the current School Improvement Plans.
 
ASCA is also pleased that Title II will now explicitly list school counselors as allowable recipients of federal professional development dollars.
 
Finally, the title “pupil personnel service provider” has been replaced with “Specialized Instructional Support Personnel,” which includes school counselors and other support professionals working in schools.
 
What happens next? Now that the ESSA is law, many of the provisions will be introduced slowly into states and districts. All provisions should be fully integrated by 2017-2018 school year.
 

Safe, Healthy and Ready to Learn: Safe, Healthy and Ready to Learn is a consensus report on children exposed to violence and explores policy solutions to help children, families and communities heal and thrive. The report was developed in partnership with leaders from throughout the health, education, justice and child development fields, with support from The California Endowment, Blue Shield of California Foundation and the Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund. Read the executive summary or full report.

ESSCP Grant Awardees Announced: The Department of Education recently awarded funding to a number of school districts via the FY 2014 Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program. Grantees under this competition will use funds to support counseling programs in target elementary, K-12 or secondary schools. Schools will establish or expand counseling programs through hiring qualified school counselors, school social workers, school psychologists or other qualified child and adolescent psychiatrists with a goal of expanding the range, availability, quantity and quality of counseling services. Funds may also be used to support parental involvement, school counselor and other staff professional development and collaboration with community-based organizations providing mental health and other services to students. View the recipients

U.S. Department of Education issues new guidance to chief state school officers on federal funds available for school counseling professional development and services. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan authors a letter to schools and local education agencies to use their federal investments wisely and provides a list of federal programs that can be used for comprehensive school counseling services and professional development. Read the letter.

Framework for Safe and Successful Schools: ASCA, along with a number of other leading education organizations, have called on Congress and the administration to enact school safety policies that will genuinely support the well-being and learning of students over the long term. These organizations released A Framework to Safe and Successful Schools, their joint recommendations for improved school safety and and access to mental health services for students. Learn more.

Important New Resource for Borrowers
www.IBRinfo.org is a new Web site that provides independent, reliable information about Income-Based Repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, two new federal programs to help make student loan repayment fair and manageable. The site explains the programs and will be updated as new information becomes available. Users can register to get updates on important developments as the U.S. Department of Education finalizes regulations and creates the systems for managing the new programs.

If you are hearing from individuals or groups worrying about student loan payments or those wondering if they can afford to take a public service job, www.IBRinfo.org will be helpful.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR) is a new payment option for federal student loans. It will help borrowers keep their loan payments affordable with payment caps (less than 10% of income for most eligible borrowers) based on income and family size. IBR also will forgive remaining debt, if any, after up to 25 years of qualifying payments. Public Service Loan Forgiveness will forgive remaining debt after 10 years of eligible employment and qualifying loan payments for people working in key public service professions such as teaching, government, social work, law enforcement, and non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations.

These new programs take effect in July 2009. It will take a while before the U.S. Department of Education has all of the regulations written and the systems up and running. In the interim, IBRinfo.org will provide information on these two new federal programs, as well as other student financial assistance. On this website, consumers also can sign up to receive alerts about new developments as they occur.

National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations
ASCA is a member of The National Alliance of Pupil Services Organizations (NASISP). NASISP is a coalition of national professional organizations whose members provide and support a variety of school-based prevention and intervention services to assist students in becoming effective learners and productive citizens.

NASISP organizations represent over a million members, including school counselors, school nurses, psychologists, school psychologists, social workers and school social workers; occupational therapists, physical therapists, art therapists, dance/movement therapists, and music therapists; speech-language pathologists and audiologists; teachers, students, parents, and administrators.

NASISP promotes interdisciplinary practice and collaboration and advocates for ensuring access to quality pupil services for all students. NASISP member organizations are bound together by our common vision to bring all students, in all states, the programs and professional support services they need to insure success in school. 

Legislative Links
Searching for information on a particular member of Congress or a particular bill? Check out these links:
U.S. Senate
U.S. House of Representatives
The White House
Library of Congress Thomas System