On Thursday, March 2, on behalf of the Minnesota Association of Independent Schools, Director of General Studies Jackie Smith testified in front of the Minnesota House of Representatives Education Finance Committee in support of a bill that would expand state funding for mental health support in independent schools like Heilicher.
Rep. Mary Frances Clardy, vice chair of the committee, put forth a bill that would expand mental health funding in nonpublic schools. Currently, independent schools receive state dollars for mental health support such as counseling, but only for students in seventh-twelfth grade. Heilicher, like many K-8 nonpublic schools, does not receive much of that funding. The bill — House File 1102 — requests an expansion to provide the funding for K-12. It is a bipartisan effort, with supporters and detractors on both sides of the aisle. The delivery of services that are funded is done in a way that upholds constitutional requirements (for instance, religious schools can't use the funding to support conversion therapy).
Jackie argued the following key points:
- Students of all ages continue to struggle with trauma from the pandemic.
- Mental health needs, stress, and anxiety can begin at an early age, and have a serious impact on learning.
- Our students contend with the stress of anti-Semitism.
- Many independent schools do not, in fact, have resources to provide school counseling services.
- Students move between public and private institutions, and the mental health of all Minnesota students should be a priority.
Keep up with the bill on the Minnesota Legislature website.