Alki PTA Representatives Mike Uehara-Bingen (PTA President) and Davina Dilley (Advocacy Chair) presented their proposed new Legislative Issue, Increase Access to Nursing, Mental Health, and Social Emotional Learning Staff as part of this year’s Washington State PTA Legislative Assembly. Alki’s Legislative Proposal was voted in as the #1 Top Priority for Washington State PTA!
Watch the 5 minute video:
A note from PTA President Mike Uehara-Bingen:
When the quarantine shut down schools, I started to get really concerned about schools re-opening without Health Professionals on Staff. The WA State funding allocations for School Nurses, Counselors, Social Workers, and Psychologists is negligible compared to the need. This amounts to one of the great social injustices in this state, as some children have access to healthcare in their school, while other children do not. It depends on the success of a school community to raise additional revenue, which creates a heartbreaking inequity, and I just couldn’t imagine how this was going to work in the covid era.
I started attending Town Halls so that I could ask questions to the district Superintendent and School Board Directors. I started finding other child advocates who know a lot about state funding, gathering their advice and recommendations, furiously taking notes, and coming up with some plans. I set up an Alki Advocacy Committee Meeting to present some ideas about how we might get the ear of some legislators, took feedback from the group, and it sharpened our focus. We quickly organized a Town Hall with our local State Senator Joe Nguyen and State Reps Eileen Cody and Joe Fitzgibbon. We made a shared Google spreadsheet where we listed the questions we might have to be able to answer in debate with opponents, and we all did research to support our positions.
This eventually caught the eye of the WA State PTA (WSPTA) Advocacy Committee, and they invited us to submit a proposal for a legislative priority. WSPTA keeps a Top 5 legislative priority list, which changes every two years, and the process to choose the new Top 5 would be taking place this October. If our issue were to make it into the Top 5, then we would be able to get the WSPTA’s coaching, resources, and connections, and partner with them to engage State Legislators to try and get a bill passed. It was very thrilling to find this channel of opportunity to potentially get state funding for health professionals for all children, and several of us were all in! We were starting to meet some rockstar advocates who have been doing this kind of work for decades, who offered their coaching and helped us reach several milestones.
Fast forward to this weekend, after months of research and preparation, and we joined the WSPTA Legislative Assembly where hundreds of PTA advocates from around the state participated in two full days of debate and a thorough voting process. I am super proud to report that our Issue received the most votes, and will therefore be at the top of the priority list for the next two years. The WSPTA will be working with State Senators and Representatives to get a bill passed to increase funding for School Nurses, Counselors, Social Workers, and Psychologists all across Washington State. All of the Top 5 issues are extremely important, such as preserving school funding in the current economic collapse, equitable access to internet and other digital resources, support for disabled children, and prevention of gun violence and suicide. These issues combine into the new WSPTA Advocacy Platform, and we’ll be advocating for all of them.
It is an absolute honor to be trusted with this responsibility, and it is quite humbling to witness the strength of so many volunteers who are providing support. This could not have been done without the help of an incredible list of people who work tirelessly for the well-being of all children.
There is still lots of work ahead to do this right, to honor all of the work that has been done so far, and to get an outcome that serves all children in WA state.
None of this could have been done without the help of several volunteers, both within the Alki community and beyond. Special shout out to Davina Dilley, Heidi Zamora, and Salleigh Knox, who have prioritized this work and poured their hearts into it, every step of the way.
The WSPTA Advocacy Director said something today that meant a lot to me, which is that all of the hundreds of people who engaged in the process today to choose these Top 5 priorities, including all of the people who worked for months to research and propose them, were all there because somebody at some point inspired them to join their PTA.
You can join the Alki Elementary PTA here: https://tinyurl.com/alki-pta-registration-2020
All children deserve to have a substantial network of adults who advocate for their well-being and the success of their educations, but not all children have that. By joining us in our advocacy, your action could go a long way towards solving that problem.
Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, so that we can learn how you might like to help!
Mike Uehara-Bingen, PTA President
Alki PTA’s Proposed New Legislative Issue #2: Increase Access to Nursing, Mental Health, and Social Emotional Learning Staff
Washington State PTA shall support legislation or policies that support the medical and mental health of all students P-12 with innovative funding solutions for increased non-teaching staff including but not limited to nurses, counselors, psychologists, and social workers in schools, provided in-person or according to the best practices in telehealth access.
Persuasive Statement from the Alki PTA: Washington state urgently needs to address the insufficient funding for mental health, nursing, and social emotional learning staff in our schools. The recommended ratio for school nurses is one for every 750 students, but state funding only allows for a ratio of one to every 5,200 students. This leaves districts and PTAs to bridge the gap, causing significant inequities across our state.
We rely on school health professionals to care for our children through everyday bumps and bruises. We also rely on them for students who need regular medical attention, many of whom have to travel outside of their neighborhood to attend schools that have a full-time nurse. School health professionals are key in early detection of child abuse and suicidal behavior, the rates of which have been on the rise among our youth for several years. Every student deserves access to these services, and we are not meeting those needs.
The COVID-19 crisis has only further illustrated the urgency of this issue. We rely on school nurses to implement public health guidelines to keep our children safe and healthy. In this time of extreme transition, those guidelines are evolving, and so consistent nursing staff is paramount. This also means that social emotional learning staff, such as school counselors, psychologists, and social workers are crucial in meeting the evolving mental health needs of all students.
View all of the 2020 Proposed Legislative Principles, Issues, and Resolutions for consideration here.