Mental health resources for K-12 schools at stake in gubernatorial race The Badger Herald
Going into the gubernatorial election, Governor Tony Evers (D) announcement a $90 million allocation to K-12 education for mental health services, staffing needs and classroom support.
Of the allocation, $15 million will support the “Get Kids Ahead” initiativewhich aims to establish comprehensive school mental health systems.
“Whether it’s ensuring children have access to mental health services, helping to meet rising costs for classroom and school supplies due to national inflation, or to retain and recruit educators and staff to reduce class sizes, these investments will ensure that our children have the resources and support to catch up and succeed both in and out of the classroom,” said said Evers in a Press release.
Scott Phillips, an American history teacher in Whitewater, Wisconsin, said a mental health support plan was needed when returning to in-person teaching after the COVID-19 pandemic.
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According to Annie E. Casey Foundation26% more school-aged children suffered from anxiety or depression in the United States in 2020 than in 2016.
These mental health impacts coincide with the pandemic and growing concerns about violence in schools. They do not affect all students in the same way – according to children ahead, 60% of Native children, 26% of Black children and 22% of Latino children in Wisconsin suffered from anxiety or depression. Fifteen percent of white children reported the same symptoms.
Phillips hopes Evers’ funding will support students who are struggling after returning to in-person instruction.
“It just seems like there’s apparently a lot of data on teens struggling with anxiety, and then you throw COVID on top of that,” Phillips said. “I hope this money will make a difference in terms of support for teenagers who need it, whatever it is…resources, training [or] hire more staff.
Schools that were eligible to receive funding will be able to create comprehensive school mental health systems. These systems are intended to support the mental health of students and staff through several avenues – school mental health teams, crisis support, peer mentoring and suicide prevention are just a few of these strategies.
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The plan also includes mental health resources for teachers — Phillips said those resources are important for educators post-pandemic.
“There are so many of us [teachers] were a mess when we came back from COVID,” Phillips said.
With the election approaching, Phillips said it was a dangerous time to teach high school. He worries about remaining neutral on political topics or saying something that is misconstrued as partisan in the classroom.
But it’s also an exciting time for Phillips — students are more involved in class discussions because they’re more politically engaged, and he’s excited about the big implications of the election at the state and federal levels.
John Witte, professor emeritus in the political science department at the University of Wisconsin’s La Follette School of Business, said while the election was likely a factor in Evers’ stipend, his support for education is no surprise.
Witte said the money allocated to mental health funds was partly a reaction to violence in schools.
“I think it’s a reaction to the terrible things that happened in the schools, the shootings and the violence that happened,” Witte said. “…It’s for a relatively new category of things and I’m sure it’s a direct reaction to the violence in schools over the past couple of years.”
Tim Michels, Evers’ Republican opponent, disagrees with the level of spending on educational resources. According to Milwaukee Journal SentinelMichels said Evers’ $90 million allocation was a political plan and there was no need to spend more money on schools.
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michaels also said that Evers’ education policies are anti-parenting and pro-special interests, and that they don’t resonate with Wisconsin voters. During a debate, Michels said that more investment in education does not help future generations.
“There is no greater investment than future generations in Wisconsin. The problem is that we already spend so much money on education,” Michels said. during the debate. “That’s the solution, if you will, for 10, 20 or 30 years, more money for education, more money for education, and it doesn’t work – the definition of insanity.”
Michels and Evers have different educational policy strategies, Witte said. The main focuses of the gubernatorial race around education are school choice issues and teacher unions.
Despite the rise in instances of poor mental health among K-12 students, it is not a widely contested topic. Phillips said that because mental health resources aren’t as polarizing, they aren’t talked about as much as they should be.
“I don’t hear enough about mental health. I don’t hear them talk about it enough. We talk about the issues that polarize us and are going to motivate people to have a strong emotional reaction, to get us to the polls,” Phillips said. “…Do you think we’ll hear a question asked during the senator’s race or the governor’s race debate on sanity?”