NYASP's mission is to serve children, their families, and the school community by promoting psychological well-being, excellence in education, and sensitivity to diversity through best practices in school psychology. Long-term strategic planning, including legislative priorities, is based upon the core elements of this Mission Statement. On an annual basis, NYASP reviews the legislative priorities of the Association, based upon long-term goals, as well as immediate needs or opportunities.
In general, the Legislative Session in Albany convenes from January to June of each year. Annually, Legislators collaborate with the Governor to develop a state budget. This task dominates the focus of our elected officials. The budget process usually concludes in early April. While other pieces of legislation are discussed during the budget development, many legislators remain focused on budget related items. This leaves a very short window of time, from mid-April to the end of June, to accomplish other legislative items.
NYASP 2012 Legislative Priorities
1. Mandate Relief
This year, NYASP was faced with many challenges. As the state faced historic budget deficits, school psychologists' mandated role on the CSE became a target of the NYSED and the Board of Regents as they identified special education mandates in NY that exceeded federal standards. NYASP worked with NYSED Associate Commissioner Ken Slentz, as well as individual Regents to ensure that the role of the school psychologist on the CSE was well understood. In addition, NYASP's legislative team worked tirelessly with leaders in the State Assembly and Senate on Mandate Relief legislation. Despite initial recommendations that would have removed the mandate for the school psychologist on the CSE, the NYS Legislature DID NOT PASS ANY LEGISLATION THAT IMPACTS THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST ON THE CSE. Therefore, NOTHING HAS CHANGED. SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS REMAIN MANDATED MEMBERS OF THE CSE FOR ALL MEETINGS.
The only change that impacts school psychologists is that NYSED changed regulations that removed the mandate for a written report when no additional testing is conducted for re-evaluations only.
2. Concussion Management
NYS passed the Concussion Management Act, which identifies new policies and procedures that school districts must follow when a student has been diagnosed with a "traumatic brain injury" or concussion. As part of this legislation, schools are encouraged to develop "concussion management teams" to guide the support and interventions needed by these students. NYSED developed a set of guidelines for schools on implementing the requirements of this new legislation. NYASP worked with NYSED to ensure that school psychologists were recommended members of the "management team," as these professionals possess the training and expertise to help the school understand the psychological and cognitive repercussions of a concussion.
The Dignity Act or the "Dignity for All Students Act" has gone into effect for all schools throughout NYS. NYASP was represented on the NYSED Workgroup that was developed to provide guidance and recommendations on implementation of the requirements of this Act. The work of school psychologists and other school-based mental health providers is evident in many of the guidance documents produced by this workgroup.
NYASP also supported an additional piece of legislation related to cyberbullying, which compliments the work of the Dignity Act. This legislation passed the legislature at the end of the session.
4. Licensure of School Psychologists
NYASP continue to pursue the long-term legislative goal of licensure of school psychologists to practice SCHOOL psychology outside the school setting. School psychology is a specialty area of psychology, with unique training and experience requirements. The "school" in school psychology denotes the uniqueness of the practice, not necessarily the setting. School psychologists, with their expertise in psycho-educational assessment, data-based decision making, educationally related psychotherapy and preventive services, consultative services to parents, educators, and others involved in the education of a child, as well as the development of educationally related programs, can serve the public in a broader capacity beyond the school setting.
NYASP has worked with key legislators in Albany to advance legislation that would provide for a focused scope of practice licensure. The bills are supported by many educational groups, including the school superintendents' association, school boards association, special education administrators' association, and a coalition for children with special needs. There is a recognition that this licensure is the first step in restoring over $100 million in Medicaid reimbursement for school-based psychological services to schools throughout NY. Currently, because school psychologists are limited by certification to only work in the schools, this Medicaid funding is unavailable to schools.
Scope of practice legislation is difficult to accomplish in the current environment within the NYS Legislature. There is a reluctance to address many of the professions seeking licensure, including school psychologists. However, progress continues to be made through ongoing conversations with key legislative leaders, NYSED, and NYSED's Office of the Professions. Of particular note were key conversations by the Program Directors and faculty members of the school psychology training programs throughout NY held with the top legislative leaders. These professionals helped the legislators understand the nature of school psychology training, the expertise that school psychologists possess in mental health and educational issues, and the capacity to practice in a variety of settings.
Discussion regarding licensure continues to the present day and will persist, even when the legislators are out of session. Sometimes, the best conversations you have with an elected official is when they have more time to devote to your issue.