Publisher's note: The author of this post is Lindsay Marchello, who is an associate editor for the Carolina Journal, John Hood Publisher.
Lawmakers seem to agree licensing reciprocity would benefit public schools needing school psychologists, but the bill still must pass the Senate.
House Bill 933
, which passed the House in May, would allow the State Board of Education to license an individual who holds a Nationally Certified School Psychologist credential from the National Association of School Psychologists.
The N.C. School Psychologist Association recommends one school psychologist for every 500 students, but North Carolina's public schools have a ratio of 1:2,000. Twelve districts don't have a school psychologist.
H.B. 933 originated in the working group on student mental health, one of two subsets of the House Select Committee on School Safety. The bill easily passed the House.
The Department of Public Instruction and the N.C. School Psychologist Association support the bill.
Lawmakers discussed the bill in the Senate Healthcare committee Thursday, June 7, but no votes were taken.
H.B. 933 doesn't fund additional allotments to create more psychologist positions, but it makes it easier to fill vacancies across the state. North Carolina public schools have as many as 75 school psychologist vacancies. Many are in the southeastern part of the state.
"My expectation is that we will have a significant increase to fill those 75 positions once the school psychologist community realizes that they can come practice in North Carolina without having to go through a cumbersome process, if in fact they carry that national certification,"
Rep. Josh Dobson, R-McDowell said.
Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, said the bill is a step in the right direction, but he questioned whether more could be done to improve the ratio.
Dobson pointed to another House bill
that would provide bonuses to school psychologists.
"We need to get closer to that ratio of what's needed for school psychologists per students in North Carolina,"
Dobson said. "Obviously, salary is an issue we need to look at ... we just felt like with the short time that we had this would be an easy win to get those school psychologists in North Carolina."
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
, the national median salary of school psychologists is $77,030. The salary range
in North Carolina for full-time school psychologists is roughly between $50,000 and $75,500.