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Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Conference Committee

Sept. 13, 2018: The fiscal year 2019 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Conference Committee held its final meeting and released its report today. The report was a negotiation of the House and Senate fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills. There are a few important items for school counselors. 

  • The Nelson/Rubio amendment allocating $10 million to establish innovative partnerships between universities and school districts to combat the shortages of school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers was accepted. This amendment was a joint effort with our colleagues at NASP and SSWAA as we worked closely with the offices of Senators Nelson and Rubio to expand the language of the Safe Schools National Programs to highlight the priority of school-based mental health services.
  • The funding level for Title IV-A grants saw a $70 million increase, bringing the total to $1.17 billion. 
  • ASCA and a number of other education groups sent a joint letter to the conference committee earlier this morning urging them to create a legislative fix that would prohibit the use of federal dollars to purchase firearms or provide training to use firearms. Unfortunately, the conference report did not address this subject. On Sept. 19, ASCA joined a group of organizations and forwarded a letter to Secretary DeVos expressing opposition for using Title IV-A funds to purchase firearms. ASCA will continue to work toward a legislative solution to prohibit the use of federal funds to purchase firearms.

The conference report will be on the Senate floor for a vote during the last week of September. The measure would fund the government through Dec. 7, 2018. We do not expect any action will be needed from ASCA members for this vote. 



Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act
On Sept. 12, 2018, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) introduced a new and improved Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act to provide dedicated funding to states to lower the staffing ratios for school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers. The bill is similar to the former ESSCP that was funded under No Child Left Behind and has been given the same title. The new iteration of the bill is a vast improvement over the previous version. ASCA and the National Association of School Psychologists, the School Social Work Association of American and the American Psychological Association worked with Merkley and Clark's offices to update the previous ESSCP and helped their offices introduce the bill. ASCA is pleased to join NASP, SSWAA and APA as original endorsing organizations of this important legislation.

The Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Act would:
Establish two five-year renewable grant programs to staff elementary and secondary schools with school counselors, psychologists and social workers, effectively by providing federal grants to states to disburse to school districts.

  • Base allotment grants: State educational agencies would receive a grant on a proportional basis based on the number of elementary and secondary school students in each state. No state would receive less than $1 million for this grant.
  • Need-based grants: State educational agencies may apply, on a competitive basis, for additional funds through a need-based grant. States must provide matching funds in an amount equal to not less than one half of the additional grant amount. These grants are based on need for mental health services providers to achieve the recommended student-to-staff ratios for school counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Funding in the previous program was distributed entirely through competitive grants, and a relatively low number of school districts in a few states received grants each year. The new program would provide funding for all 50 states, and because matching funds are required, states receiving the grants demonstrate a commitment to improving student mental health and wellness.

The bill requests an initial authorization level of $5 billion the first year. ASCA is coordinating advocacy efforts with Merkley and Clark’s offices. We will keep members up-to-date with the process and will develop an action alert to solicit additional co-sponsors in the near future. Be on the lookout for the opportunity to contact your members of congress. Please direct any questions to Amanda Fitzgerald.



Gun Safety
ASCA opposes any proposal to use federal education funds to purchase firearms. Read the statement



Perkins V
On July 31, 2018, Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (Perkins V) was signed into law. Perkins V reauthorizes and replaces the former Carl D. Perkins Act of 2006. Perkins V will have funding implications for postsecondary institutions and some middle grades (defined as fifth–eighth) and secondary schools.

What school counselors need to know: Perkins V takes effect, beginning with a one-year transition plan, on July 1, 2019. The authorized funding levels suggested in Perkins V are not definite amounts at this time, as they will be part of appropriations deliberations in fiscal year 2019 and each subsequent year thereafter.

The new law requires a comprehensive needs assessment, created with stakeholder input; local education agencies (school districts) will need to review the following elements:

  • Student performance indicators, including the performance of special populations and subgroups
  • Whether programs are of sufficient size, scope and quality to meet the needs of all students served by the eligible recipient and are meeting labor market needs and progress toward the implementation of CTE programs and programs of study
  • How the eligible recipient will improve recruitment, retention and training of CTE professionals, including underrepresented groups
  • Progress toward implementation of equal access to high-quality CTE courses and programs of student, for all students.
Of particular importance to school counseling professionals, the law now requires the following activities:
  • Provide career exploration and career development activities through an organized, systematic framework
  • Provide professional development for a wide variety of CTE professionals
  • Provide within CTE the skills necessary to pursue high-skill, high-wage or in-demand industry sectors or occupations
  • Support integration of academic skills into CTE programs
  • Plan and carry out elements supporting the implementation of CTE programs and programs of study that result in increased student achievement
  • Develop and implement evaluations of the activities funded through Perkins

For a detailed summary of the new law, please reference this joint document created by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) and Advance CTE. Additionally, ACTE has shared a recent webinar outlining the implementation of Perkins V.



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.
 

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.



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.



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