The COVID-19 pandemic affected the lives of students, parents and educators in multiple ways, exposing their vulnerabilities, particularly related to their physical and mental well-being as they dealt with online learning.
Though many are gradually learning to adjust to the change, the students’ need for social and emotional support has only increased, Rep. Kaela Berg (DFL-Burnsville) said while presenting HF1742 to the House Education Finance Committee Tuesday.
The bill, as amended and held over for possible omnibus bill inclusion, would provide $225.6 million in fiscal year 2023 for schools to hire student support personnel. Some of that money would be used to recruit and retain student support personnel of color and Indigenous providers.
“Our students need more support,” Berg said. “This bill would provide ongoing sustainable funding to every school district and charter school in Minnesota to prioritize the supports.”
Local schools would have flexibility to determine their needs and meet their goals.
She said Minnesota has 6,000 fewer school counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists than are necessary to meet the needs of students. Those support personnel help close opportunity gaps, provide academic support and counseling about important issues, including medical care.
“Being a kid today is completely different than it was 20 years ago,” said DeeDee Sivanich, a registered nurse at Osseo High School.
She has seen more students come to her with serious medical issues, while electronic devices and social media have added to their stress and anxiety, underlining the need for providing mental health care to students.
“Our students are our future, and we need to invest in our youth,” Sivanich said.
Maureen Hoodecheck, a psychologist with Prior Lake-Savage Schools, said early intervention can help prevent situations from reaching a crisis and save money for districts in the long run.
“Another benefit of this bill is to fully integrate learning support instruction and school management with a comprehensive approach of interdisciplinary collaboration,” Hoodecheck said.