December 23, 2019
Charleston, W.Va. – The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) reports that counties are using allocations from House Bill (HB) 206 to support students’ growing social and emotional needs to hire new personnel, train existing staff, invest in programs and contract for outside services.
HB 206 was passed during a special legislative session in June 2019. The bill allocated an additional $30.5 million to counties in the form of block grants and allowed them to tailor the resources to meet the local needs of their students. Counties have used the new funding to provide direct social and emotional support services to address growing needs that have resulted from the opioid crisis and an increase in poverty rates. Additional funding has been used to:
- Hire 115 new student support personnel statewide;
- Contract with agencies to provide mental health and social support services within 31 counties, equating to 59 full-time employees;
- Introduce and support programs that address the expanding needs of students and families;
- Provide additional training for educators and staff such as trauma-informed training; and
- Maintain current student support personnel positions over the state aid formula that may have otherwise been eliminated due to budget shortfalls.
Integrating professional student support personnel as members of the school staff empowers principals to better manage and deploy resources. School counselors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, Communities in Schools coordinators and attendance directors are among the professional support staff hired by counties. Even with funding available, the need outweighs the availability of personnel and several counties report difficulty attracting and hiring qualified candidates.
“I commend our Legislature for the leadership it has shown in making critical resources available to support our schools and counties,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine. “It has been six months since the passing of HB 206, and counties have moved quickly and aggressively to use the funding to meet their needs.”
Many counties have noted that the timing of the passage of HB 206 was a barrier to using the funds this school year. Because funding was allocated in late July 2019, many counties have plans to continue to hire additional personnel.
“Student support professionals play a critical role in ensuring school safety, fostering a positive school climate and providing school-based mental health services,” Paine said.
For county-by-county data on student support services, visit https://wvde.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Student-Support-Personnel_By-County.pdf.