Bill would create a grant program to better recruit, develop, and retain SISP professionals in rural and lower-income school districts that historically see workforce shortages

On March 24, 2022 U.S. Representatives Marie Newman (IL-03), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01) and Susan Wild (PA-07) have introduced H.R. 7219, the Growing, Recruiting, and Obtaining Workers in Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Services (GROW SISPS) Act, as part of an effort to ensure students receive the individualized support they need to succeed in the classroom. The new bill will create a grant program at the Department of Education to increase partnerships between school districts and colleges to train and certify various Specialized Instruction Support Personnel programs (SISPs) to better serve rural and lower-income school districts.

“All of us in Congress have a fundamental obligation to ensure our nation’s children have access to high-quality public education, no matter where they live or the wealth of their community,” said Rep. Newman. “By passing the GROW SISPS Act, we can provide America’s school districts with a pipeline of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel that work directly with students who are facing learning barriers and ensure they’re getting the services they need to succeed. At a time when schools are facing national workforce shortages and students are reeling from mental health crises caused by the pandemic, I am proud to introduce this comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to better support our students, teachers, parents and entire communities across the nation.” 

“Specialized Instructional Support Personnel work tirelessly in schools across the country to support students and foster positive and safe learning environments. Unfortunately, there is a nationwide shortage of qualified SISPs, particularly in rural and lower-income school districts, and the demand for these professionals is only increasing,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Our legislation will establish a Department of Education grant program that will allow these underserved school districts to bolster recruitment and retention of qualified SISP professionals so that schools can provide crucial support services and meet student needs.” 

“As our students emerge from a long battle with learning barriers that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that we give schools the tools to train Specialized Instructional Support Personnel, or SISPs, and properly address the shortage of essential services that many school programs experience,” said Rep. Wild. “This legislation is a commonsense, effective solution for our nation’s most hard to staff school districts in rural and lower-income areas, and I’m proud to have introduced it with a group of bipartisan colleagues.”

In school districts across the nation, Specialized Instructional Support Personnel, or SISPs, work with teachers, school support staff, parents, community members, and other education stakeholders to help students remove learning barriers. They can include school-based mental health professionals like school counselors, school psychologists, and professionals that work with students with disabilities who provide crucial services to students to address students’ needs in school. However, the vast majority of schools nationwide fall short of the recommended ratios of school-based mental health professionals to students, especially in rural and lower income school districts.

Rural and lower-income school districts often struggle to find and retain qualified SISPs, putting those school districts at great risk of shortages. To mitigate this challenge, GrowYour Own programs focus on recruiting staff already living and working in these communities. Some may already be working in other roles within the same school district and can be re-trained and certified in other essential roles, such as school psychology.

This bill would help add more “Grow Your Own” programs to schools to recruit, develop, and retain SISPs professionals who are already in the community. Grow Your Own programs have typically been used develop and train teachers to address teacher shortages and have been proven to be a successful model for graduate programs such as school psychologists. By passing the GROW SISPS Act, Congress can better address national workforce shortages of SISPs roles, particularly in hard to staff school districts in rural and lower-income areas.

A number of organizations support this legislation, including the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Council of Administrators of Special Education (CASE), and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
The bill is now with the Committee on Education and Labor.

To view H.R. 7219, click here.