Image Credit: Tennessee Department of Education
The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Ten million in federal grant money is up for grabs in Tennessee for increased mental health services. The Tennessee Department of Education opened up the application process for the Resilient School Communities Grant last month with this Thursday being the final day to apply.
Every school district that correctly completes an application according to the Education Department’s rubric is promised $10,000. The maximum amount a district will be awarded is $250,000.
The total grant of $10.2 million, which is being funneled to the Department of Education by way of Covid-19 relief funding via the Tennessee Department of Health, will be divvied up among Tennessee schools depending on their needs.
The grant will fund the following priorities:
• Building Resilient School Communities – this is a one-time grant to increase the number of trauma-informed schools and districts by participating in a two-year Resilient School Communities Initiative which will involve intense scrutiny at the regional and state level. The district will be required to hire a district-level coordinator, and purchase books, materials and training space costs (all funded by the grant money.)
• Expand School-Based Initiatives & Supports – this one-time grant develops comprehensive school-based supports and program models, such as Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE). AWARE is a school-based mental health program that collaborates with state and local education agencies, the state mental health agency and community providers. It aims to promote the social and emotional development of students and prevent youth violence in schools.
• Increase School-Based Supports Staff Capacity – this one-time grant aims to increase the number of mental health support staff such as counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and behavioral specialists in schools and may include paying outside mental health contractors.
Dr. Tim Parrot, Director of Schools for Anderson County, says his district will use the grant for “additional professional development and mental health curriculum” for teachers, counselors, and administrators.
Fayette County Public Schools hopes to use the funds to “implement restorative practices throughout the district” according to Director of Schools, Dr. Versie Hamlett.
Some conservatives have concerns about grants such as these that aim to increase the local school’s influence in an area that has traditionally been the responsibility of parents. Some say this type of funding lays the groundwork for schools to co-parent children in a “whole child” education model which is becoming more and more integrated into Tennessee education.
Funding for mental health in schools has also been increasing through ESSER. Public schools throughout the state will receive over $4.5 billion in federal money by fall of next year.
In the latest round of ESSER surveys, parents and community stakeholders were asked to rank the importance of mental health services in schools. According to sources, Tennessee is using these funds to invest heavily in Social Emotional Learning programs under the guise of students’ mental health needs.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at email@example.com.