Vote Nevada Supporters,
In light of the increasing school violence and yesterday’s devasting news about the attempted murder and sexual assault of an El Dorado high school teacher, I am resending this information about a path forward.
The dialogue on school violence must include not only what is happening now, but also examinations of how we ended up with this crisis.
I would like to contribute some information to this debate.
In 2018, in response to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting Governor Sandoval created a task force to examine school safety, broadly. This task force included Nevadans from across many different fields and backgrounds and spent considerable time hosting hearings and engaging in research that was memorialized in the task force’s final report.
The thirty-page document is a thoughtful examination of historic funding deficits and short-circuited strategic planning, but most importantly, it lays out the severe lack of wraparound services available in schools.
The report documents missing public health services in many parts of our state, and so addresses the idea usually floated to justify not offering services through schools; it shows that families often cannot access mental health providers in the community. If mental health services are not offered in our schools, many families lack access.
You can read an op-ed I co-authored on this topic here: https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/we-need-action-on-equity-in-nevada-education
To ameliorate this problem, task force members recommended funding mental and behavioral health professionals in schools at national professional to student ratios.
You can read the task force materials here: https://doe.nv.gov/Boards_Commissions_Councils/StatewideSchoolSafetyTaskForce/Statewide_School_Safety_Task_Force/
You can review the task force’s final report with recommendations here: https://vote-nevada.news/School-Safety-Report
The task force’s final report recommendations became Senate Bill 89 in the 2019 legislative session and received thorough vetting. In that session, SB89’s school safety programs received $53.8 million in funding, but even that generous allocation was insufficient to implement all the SB89 recommendations. This is the text of SB89: https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/80th2019/Bill/6036/Text
Recently, the Nevada Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights released a report on The Impact of Remote Learning on Education Equity and noted that SB89’s recommendations for staffing schools with behavioral and mental health professionals still have not been addressed.
And that this continuing deficit of wraparound services is making pandemic conditions in schools much worse.
You can read the Advisory Committee’s report here: https://vote-nevada.news/Remote-Learning-Ed-Equity
In a follow-up hearing on January 28, 2022, the Advisory Committee heard a presentation from the Nevada Department of Education. That presentation quantified the current deficit of school-based mental and behavioral health professionals state-wide and the cost to fill that deficit at the national ratios. You can see the NDE presentation here: https://vote-nevada.news/NDE-Follow-Up-Report
The funding need is $234,115,208. That is our behavioral and mental health services deficit in our schools right now. The strain on teachers and support staff who are expected to provide mental and behavioral health services without adequate training or compensation must be unbearable.
In a February Interim hearing of the Subcommittee to Advise on the Expenditure of Federal COVID-19 Funding our school district superintendents reported on their individual district’s spending of ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds.
Despite knowing that these are one-time funds, many superintendents reported hiring behavioral and mental health professionals. Each included a plea to find ways to sustain these hires in the next biennial budget. You can watch the hearing here: https://vote-nevada.news/Interim-Hearing-Sustainability
In his recent State of the Union speech, President Biden committed to addressing the growing mental health crisis among children. The White House released a supplemental document laying out the administration’s 2023 budget priorities in this area.
The document addresses the dilemma our superintendents face as they use one-time federal dollars to hire sorely needed mental health professionals by proposing to continue funding these hires in the president’s 2023 budget.
The document also recognizes our severe shortages of mental and behavioral health providers and the need to support higher education in addressing this important workforce development challenge.
The document includes proposals for covering tuition for students who go into high-need behavioral and mental health fields and agree to stay in the state to provide services in high-need areas. You can read this White House document here: https://vote-nevada.news/National-Unity-Mental-Health-Plan
When looking at our state budget for possible streams of revenue to fully fund SB89, the Vote Nevada Behavioral and Mental Health Committee has consistently argued that we waste hundreds of millions of dollars incarcerating the mentally ill, with often tragic results.
Mental and behavioral health early interventions and preventative care for children can put every child on a path of well-being and productive life, which should gradually reduce the need to warehouse our mentally ill in our jails and prisons.
You can read more about a new dashboard to review the status of our prisons here: https://thenevadaindependent.com/article/state-hopes-new-dashboard-gives-clearer-picture-of-prison-trends-results-of-reform
In sum, we figured out why our schools are not safe in 2018. We have the research and recommendations available now, so, the next step should be speaking to our members of Congress, the Governor, and our legislators to ask them to commit to implementing the available recommendations.
Thank you for being Nevadans with me,
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