Prototypical School Funding Model and School Psychologists
SCOPE, 41(2), 17-18
By Carrie Suchy, NCSP, GPR Co-Chair, and Alexandra Franks-Thomas, NCSP, President-Elect
The OSPI Staffing Enrichment Workgroup was tasked with making recommendations for reducing educational opportunity gaps in Washington State. The group’s first directive was to make recommendations for the Prototypical School Funding Model based on I-1351, the class size and workload initiative that passed several years ago. A report with recommendations was released during the fall, and was of concern to many WSASP members. Your GPR Committee would like to provide clarification and understanding about what the Prototypical School Funding Model is, how school psychologist roles are typically funded, and the advocacy work that WSASP is engaged in on this topic.
What is the Prototypical School Funding Model?
The premise of the Prototypical School Funding Model is that school need is linked to student enrollment, so state funds are distributed based on recommended staffing ratios. For example, the Prototypical School Funding Model might recommend funding for a staffing ratio of 1.25 administrators for 600 high school students. So, a high school of 1200 students would receive funding for 2.5 administrator positions. Local differences are also accounted for by allowing districts to have local control over how they spend this money (with some exceptions dictated specifically by legislation). Most basic education funding dollars are linked to the “prototypical” ratios, but can be spent however the district sees fit. The Legislature appropriates the dollars as opposed to mandating specific uses with the exception of K-3 class sizes.
How are School Psychologists typically funded?
We do not have hard data on this; however, most school psychologists in Washington are funded from what are called Categorical Special Education Funds. Because of this, most school psychologists have to sign an affidavit each year attesting to the fact that they only worked with students suspected of having or identified as having a disability, with a 10 to 15% allowance for other professional activities such as prevention efforts. As we move towards statewide MTSS implementation and work to expand our roles as school psychologists, you can see that this limitation will cripple our ability to support all students. (Keep that in mind, we’ll come back to this).
What was in the Staffing Enrichment Workgroup Report from fall 2019?
Several WSASP members, including your GPR Committee, were concerned by several references to School Psychologists in this report. The report cited several different recommended school psych/student ratios throughout the report, many of which were not reflective of current NASP recommendations (WEA helped to provide NASP Best Practice Model information to the committee). The larger concern, though, was the Workgroup’s recommendation for school psychologists. They clearly recommend one school psychologist for every 8,060 students. This is obviously nowhere near the NASP recommended ratio of 1:500-700 students. The important detail with this recommendation though, is that this is a recommendation for general education funding for school psychologist positions.
Below is a comparison of the current Prototypical School Funding Model, the Workgroup’s recommended changes for the funding model, and the proposed ratios for Senate Bill 6615.
(We have calculated the student ratios for you: for the current ratios and the actual proposed ratios in Senate Bill 6615 we did the math to convert the given decimal into a school psychologist to student ratio. For the recommendations in the report, it was reverse math to determine the decimal.)
The current general education funding for school psychologist positions is negligible. It provides funding for just minutes per week at the middle school. So, while we were all reasonably concerned to see a recommendation of 1:8060, this is actually a huge increase in funding from general education dollars for school psychologists, and could provide funding for additional school psych FTE! The actual bill went with the numbers listed in the far right column, which is an average of 1:11,046 across the grade levels.
So, yes, 1:8060 is nowhere close to recommended staffing ratios for school psychologists. But, also, the proposed funding ratio of 1:8060 funded from general education dollars is a huge improvement. Keep in mind, however, that it is all still up to local districts to decide how they allocate these funds. And, as a final caution, this is only a proposed law at this point. Nothing has changed yet.
What is WSASP Doing?
WSASP will be advocating in favor of this bill, which also reduces class sizes, and will advocate for further improvements to these ratios. In addition, WEA is advocating for a full-time school psychologist, school nurse, school counselor, or school social worker in every school across the state; it would be a local decision as to which position is hired. WEA and WSASP are also consistently advocating for the 1:500 ratio, the NASP recommendation, at the legislative level.
Funding is complicated, and we hope this improves your understanding of the advocacy decisions WSASP GPR is making to support you and Washington’s students.
For more information on the prototypical school funding model, click here.