Currently, there are multiple bills filed for consideration by the legislature this session which address mental health issues as they relate to school violence. Concerned Women for America of Texas has deep concerns about the approach that has been taken.
- Creation of a new bureaucracy (identified by several different names in the various bills) that will dramatically expand the Texas budget (see footnote on budget requirements).
- Provisions provide for research data retrieval through invasive student assessments for ALL students, and by insinuation, all families. That data is supposedly restricted to the use of the new bureaucracy (made up of university research teams), and there is no provision for its eventual destruction.
- The prime source of the mental evaluation of a student is the classroom teacher who is to receive approximately sixteen hours of continuing education. This is in addition to their primary assignment of meeting Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills standards for all twenty-plus students. So now they must be para-psychologists.
- The most egregious, however, is the absence of parental involvement. Texas families provide young citizens with remarkable capabilities. In a minority of cases, there are families who are dysfunctional to the degree that they produce children with extraordinary needs. Evaluating ALL students is a waste of resources and serves only to dilute attention to those with urgent needs.
- The evaluation standards being proposed are, at best, in a development stage with no universal agreement on definitions, yet they are being institutionalized in legislation. What is “trauma-informed care?” What are “adverse childhood experiences?” What is the definition of “social-emotional learning?”
- The religious beliefs taught in homes must be respected by public schools and are not subject to “culturally defined norms” established by public education. Questioning the mental health or viability of those families is not the prerogative of a teacher, mental health advocate, or psychiatric evaluator.
Concerned Women for America of Texas recognizes that school safety is a necessary issue for this session. We feel, however, that these measures violate conservative standards and fail to place optimum resources in critical venues at expeditious times. Measures that afford free access to mental health professionals by families in crisis would cost a fraction of this expense to the State, be more alert to actual, active circumstances, and provide more relevant services in a crisis. We are ready to work together with any legislator willing to address our concerns.
Footnote on budget requirements:
Quoting from the Budget analysis for SB 10: “The cost, timing, and institutional recipients of the funding authorized by the bill are not known. Costs of the funding may vary depending on the size, infrastructure, and existing resources of the member institutions.
For illustrative purposes, the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth estimated they would need approximately $1.8 million per fiscal year to implement the provisions of the bill related to access centers and workforce expansion. Their estimate includes costs related to hiring providers (including behavioral health specialists and a pharmacist) and staff members, two psychiatry residents, telemedicine units for each provider and resident, and other ongoing annual costs related to running a residency program.”
From the Budget analysis for SB 11: “The bill would direct each local mental health authority (LMHA) to employ a non-physician mental health professional to serve as a mental health and substance use resource for school districts, in conjunction with each education service center (ESC) served by an LMHA”…This analysis assumes that each of the 37 LMHAs and the two Local Behavioral Health Authorities would hire one additional non-physician mental health professional at an average salary of approximately $74,000. This analysis assumes that the cost of these additional employees would be appropriated to HHSC and then distributed to the local entities. The cost of these employees including benefit costs would be approximately $2.9 million per fiscal year. Additional costs would likely result from employee benefits, as well as rent, supplies, and technology costs… School districts are likely to see increased costs resulting from several of the bill’s provisions, including the bill’s requirements that districts comply with TSSC noncompliance findings. These include the following requirements: – Adoption of trauma-informed care policies and training …”
From HB 10 the bill fiscal analysis says: “The cost, timing, and institutional recipients of the grants authorized by the bill are not known. Costs of the grants may vary depending on the size, infrastructure, and existing resources of the member institutions.”