Hochul wants to tackle student mental health and teacher shortage

Echoing what educators and health professionals have been saying for years, Governor Kathy Hochul is concerned about the deteriorating mental health of students and wants to help schools expand services to many people in need.

During his state-of-state address on Wednesday, Hochul said New York must “help heal wounds inflicted during distance learning isolation.”

She also wants to tackle the statewide teacher shortage, speeding up the paths to the classroom and trying to get retirees back to school.

On mental health, Hochul proposes that the state provide mental health grants to school districts, as well as matching grants to districts that use federal stimulus funds to address student trauma.

For crisis situations, she wants the state to expand its capacity to provide home services to families so that they do not have to admit a child to a psychiatric hospital. The goal is to serve 2,640 families, double the current number.

Even before the pandemic, educators in New York routinely said that the mental health of students had become their number one concern. COVID-19 has only made matters worse. Last month, U.S. Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy warned of a growing mental health crisis facing America’s youth.

Hochul also pledged a new initiative that will connect SUNY and CUNY students with local nonprofits to help meet community needs, like mental health services and tutoring.

And she creates a pilot program for high needs schools to “create safe, positive and supportive climates.” Many school districts have started to address the school climate – examining whether students from all walks of life feel heard and supported.

Details and price tags will be part of Hochul’s budget proposal, expected in the coming days. A new state budget is expected on April 1.

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Addressing teacher shortages

First-grade teacher Kathryn Zobrowski, center, leads students in an outdoor learning session at Woodglen Elementary School in New City in November.

Hochul also wants to help schools cope with a growing shortage of teachers and other key personnel, such as school psychologists, social workers and counselors.

“The role of a teacher is irreplaceable in the life of a child, and as the past two years have marked the home, they are also irreplaceable in the life of a parent,” she said. “Like a

mother, I know it firsthand. “

Hochul noted in the plans that enrollment in teacher education programs in New York is down 53% since 2009 and that New York may need 180,000 new teachers over the next decade.

She suggests that New York City expedites the process of obtaining certification for new teachers, offers alternative paths to the classroom for those changing from another profession, and helps teacher assistants and paraprofessionals become teachers. .

She also wants to bring retired teachers and others back to work by removing income limits for pension eligibility.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivers her first State of the State Address in the State Capitol Assembly Hall on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, in Albany, NY (AP Photo / Hans Pennink, Pool)

Andy Pallotta, president of New York State United Teachers, supported Hochul’s priorities for schools.

“The pledges to strengthen mental health supports and staffing levels mark a clear commitment to meeting the socio-emotional needs of students,” he said. The governor is also heeding pre-pandemic calls from educators to address staffing shortages in state schools and diversify education staff by finding innovative ways to get more New Yorkers to view education as a career.”

Hochul confirmed, unsurprisingly, that she supports the continued distribution of unpaid “foundation aid” – the state’s primary form of aid to school districts. Last year, the legislature struck a deal to pay out $ 4.2 billion in aid over three years that schools believed was owed on the basis of a state formula. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo disagreed, saying the state didn’t have to use the formula.

Pathway to higher education

New York Governor Kathy Hochul delivers her first State of the State Address in the State Capitol Assembly Hall on Wednesday, January 5, 2022, in Albany, NY (AP Photo / Hans Pennink, Pool)

Hochul also plans to help high schools offer college-level courses to more students. This, she said, will help students start working towards a degree while reducing any potential debt.

Dia Bryant, executive director of The Education Trust – New York, a nonprofit that promotes equity in education, agreed that high-level courses need to be made available to more students, especially from low-income backgrounds.

“For far too long, students of color and students from disadvantaged backgrounds have been denied the opportunity to participate in advanced and rigorous courses that will put them on the path to the future they want after high school,” Bryant said.

Regarding Kindergarten to Grade 12 education, Hochul also proposed:

  • Bringing green energy – geothermal heating and cooling, solar power, green roofs, improved indoor air quality and ventilation – to hundreds of schools.
  • Provide state support to help schools switch to all electric school buses by 2035.
  • Improve the ability of state police to follow social media for credible criminal activity, including threats against schools.
  • Make the Department of Agriculture responsible for the school meals program to better connect schools to local farmers and food production.
  • Continue efforts to increase affordable broadband.

Gary Stern is an editor / writer covering K-12 education in the Hudson Valley. Contact him at gstern@lohud.com. Twitter: @garysternNY. Click here for his latest.

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