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5/2/2018 Senate OKs Satchell bills to improve services for kids
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed two bills sponsored by Sen. Adam J. Satchell to help provide schoolchildren with much-needed services.

The first bill would require the Department of Education to collect information on the number of social workers that are working in Rhode Island schools and the services they are providing, and report that information to the General Assembly.

Senator Satchell, who is a teacher at Deering Middle School in West Warwick and who has submitted legislation in the past to increase the number of school social workers, said he believes the report will be an eye-opening testimonial to how understaffed schools are in terms of social workers.

“At my school, we have 1,100 kids and one social worker. We have such a high number of kids with social and emotional needs resulting from poverty, trauma, transience and other challenges. No one person can possibly meet such tremendous needs. And if she’s absent when an emergency occurs, we have to pull someone from another similarly understaffed school. This is happening all over Rhode Island,” said Senator Satchell (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick). “The state makes districts responsible for creating a supportive and nurturing environment that provides adequate psychological, mental health and social services, but leaves districts to pay for social workers. Districts are already struggling to pay for basic educational services, so funding for social workers falls far, far short of what is needed.”

The legislation (2018-S 2052) would require the Department of Education to collect from school districts information about the number of common activities — such as family contacts, counseling sessions, and individual education plan (IEP) meetings — in which each school social worker participates for the entire 2018-2019 school year. The report on the numbers would be due to the General Assembly by January 2020.

The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), Sen. Paul V. Jabour (D-Dist. 5, Providence) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence).

The second bill (2018-S 2347A) creates a permanent joint commission on out of school time learning. The 17-member commission would include legislators, educators and leaders in organizations that run afterschool programs.

The commission would be charged with improving and increasing the number of quality out-of-school and learning programs in the state, and would make annual recommendations to the General Assembly.

The genesis of that bill was also a situation in West Warwick schools, where an outstanding out of school learning program called BLAST was cut due to lack of funding.

Senator Satchell said he views the commission as an opportunity to identify the most worthwhile programs in the state and to look for ways to offer similar programs to students in other communities.

“Particularly in communities with high socio-economic needs, out of school learning programs are much more than a fun extracurricular activity. They are a lifeline that keeps kids engaged in learning, connects them with adults who care about them and their wellbeing, and gives them a safe, supervised environment when they might otherwise be left alone or their parent might be struggling to provide care while at work. Our communities would benefit greatly from more high-quality out of school learning activities for kids,” said Senator Satchell.

The bill is cosponsored by Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown), Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), Sen. Ryan W. Pearson (D-Dist. 19, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Senator Gallo.

Both measures now head to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) is sponsoring companion legislation (2018-H 7685) to the first bill and Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) is sponsoring companion legislation (2018-H 7413) to the other.

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923