Committee for Children Blog

Social-Emotional Learning Gains Attention on the Federal Level

employabilty skills

Now more than ever, the US federal government is paying attention to the educational use and benefits of social-emotional learning (SEL), and Committee for Children is doing its part to make sure SEL is included in relevant federal-level conversations and legislation.

The latest, and strongest, example of SEL getting integrated on the federal level is seen in the recent passage of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (H.R. 2353). This is the re-authorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and is a $1.2 billion program to support the career side of “college & career readiness” and “employability skills.”

For its re-authorization, we at Committee for Children advocated including “employability skills” as a meaningful component to Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. After multiple Hill visits, a congressional briefing, numerous sign-on letters, papers, and coalition work, the term “employability skills” was included and is widely accepted to include an array of skills, such as communication, problem solving, and relationship building—all components of social-emotional learning. For us, it means not just a better prepared workforce, but also people better able to thrive. #growkinder

More SEL at the federal level. In March of this year, Congress passed its $1.3 trillion Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations bill to fund the government. This funded the Department of Education with $70.9 billion, a $3.9 billion increase over the 2017 level. We worked to ensure that Title IV-A funds were at least preserved, if not increased, as they are often the dollars used to support SEL in schools and systems. Indeed, we were gratified to see that Title IV-A was the biggest winner of education funding increases, receiving an increase of $700 million over 2017 amounts. Also encouraging, the $70.9 billion included the STOP School Violence Act funds available for SEL.

In this session of Congress, SEL is making an appearance across a swath of other bills currently in play. Just to name a few:

Beyond the Administration. The Executive Branch has also taken notice of SEL. For fiscal year 2017-2018, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced her final Supplemental Priorities and Definitions for Discretionary Grant Programs, which included: “Proposed Priority 4—Fostering Knowledge and Promoting the Development of Skills that Prepare Students to be Informed, Thoughtful, and Productive Individuals and Citizens.” That is essentially SEL, just by another name. The Department of Education subsequently put forth an RFP on a new technical assistance center for SEL and School Safety.

From the White House: In March of this year, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, President Trump announced the formation of a new Federal Commission on School Safety, with Secretary DeVos as chair. The Commission has met twice thus far, and SEL was presented as a featured topic.

Also from the White House, in May of this year, First Lady Trump announced her Be Best campaign, to “help our children manage the many issues they are facing today, including encouraging positive social, emotional, and physical habits.”

All this is to say that our federal government—across two branches and both sides of the aisle—is acknowledging the need to address SEL in multiple domains (e.g., opioid crisis, teacher prep, school safety, etc.), and Committee for Children is doing its part to integrate it into the fabric of American public policy.