Democrats in the North Carolina House and Senate filed companion bills Tuesday that would provide $480 million to school districts to hire more counselors, social workers and psychologists to address trauma caused or exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
School mental health officials expect a greater number of students, teachers and other staff members will return to campuses needing their services.
North Carolina’s school buildings have been closed since mid-March. They could reopen as early as Aug. 17.
Policy Watch spoke to school psychologists, counselors and social workers about their concerns earlier this month. Click here to read the story.
House Bill 1206 and Senate Bill 844 would provide money to hire at least one school psychologist for every 700 students; at least one school counselor for every 250 students and at least one school social worker for every 400 students.
Like many states, North Carolina falls woefully short of the recommended ratios when it comes to psychologists, counselors and social workers in schools.
Money for the positions would be recurring, which means it would remain in the state budget in subsequent years. The bill also states that the money cannot replace existing funding for those positions.
“It is the intent of the General Assembly that the funds provided … will supplement and not supplant any funds already provided for school psychologists, school counselors, and school social workers,” the bill states.
Here’s how the state stacks up against the ratios recommended by experts in the fields of school social work, psychology and counselors:
- For school social workers, the recommended ratio is one social worker for every 250 students. North Carolina has one for every 1,289 students.
- The recommended ratio for school psychologists is one for every 500 to 700 students. In North Carolina it’s one-to-roughly-1,800.
- For school counselors, the recommended ratio is one counselor to 250 students. North Carolina’s is one-to-353-students.
Reps. Cynthia Ball and Sydney Batch, both Democrats from Wake County and Becky Carney, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, filed HB 1206.
Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, a Democrat from Wake County and Erica D. Smith, a Democrat from Northampton County, filed SB 844.