Rep. Morales introduces legislation to fund behavioral health in Providence schools

 

STATE HOUSE — In anticipation of layoffs in the Providence Public Schools, Rep. David Morales has introduced a bill to generate revenue to fund behavioral health staff in public schools.

 
IN PHOTO: Rep. David Morales at a recent rally in support of university accountability.
“While the endowments of top private universities have increased tenfold, public schools in Providence are struggling to provide the social and emotional support our youth who live in the city of Providence need to succeed,” said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence). “This fall Providence Public Schools is projected to lose much-needed social workers and behavioral specialists due to budget constraints. Yet at the same time we have private universities boasting endowments in the billions. Therefore, it is clear that there are high levels of inequity in our education system right here in the city of Providence and for that reason I am proud to introduce an endowment tax that will support behavioral health services in our public schools.”

Last week Providence Public Schools notified nearly 60 educators that they will not have their contracts renewed. The majority of these positions are school counselors, physical education and health teachers.

This bill (2024-H 7546) would institute a tax on the endowment of private universities of 2% of each dollar the endowment exceeds $1 billion. The revenue generated by this tax would be distributed to the municipality where the private university in located, where it would be used to hire and retain behavioral health staff in public schools, including social workers, psychologists and other behavioral health specialists. Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence) has introduced companion legislation (2024-S 2564) in the Senate.

Representative Morales recently joined with education reform advocates and supporters for a rally outside of the State House to support this bill and others designed to hold private universities accountable to the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island.

 “As a representative here in the city of Providence and as an alumnus of Brown University, it is clear to me that high levels of inequity exist in our education system here in Providence,” said Representative Morales. “This bill would generate about $8 million on an annual basis directed to our local school district to fund and support the hiring and retention of social workers and behavioral health specialists, helping to somewhat reduce those inequities.”

The bill was heard by the House Finance committee Tuesday, where community members came out to support it. It was held for further study for the committee to review testimony.

 

 

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