Committee for Children Blog

Our Policy and Advocacy Year in Review | We’ve Been Busy

We’ve been advocating as experts in our field for the safety and well-being of children for over 40 years. We advocate across all 50 states and at the federal level to support policies and laws that promote social-emotional learning (SEL), address bullying, and prevent child sexual abuse. Last year alone, we tracked, analyzed, and took positions on 241 bills related to SEL. Also in 2019, we worked with Congress and played a pivotal role in passing several laws in Washington, Florida, and Texas, among other states. Have a look.

In Washington, DC

SEL and child protection programs are coming increasingly into focus for many state lawmakers, but there’s a lot of work to be done at the federal level. We ran two congressional briefings in 2019 to educate and motivate House representatives of all experience levels.

Federal Funding for Abuse Prevention

January: We hosted policymakers on Capitol Hill to educate them about how child sexual abuse is preventable, not inevitable. Panelists gave compelling evidence and moving personal testimony to show how prevention is possible and why it’s critical to pass policy addressing it. We urged Congress to appropriate $10 million in federal funding to research child sexual abuse prevention.

October: The National Coalition to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation convened for its annual meeting. There, acting vice president and Committee for Children’s director of policy and advocacy, Jordan Posamentier, led a team that kept attention on the $2 million appropriation (down from $10 million).

December: Despite turmoil in the Capitol, federal appropriations for FY2020 were signed into law and included major increases to funding for SEL and child sexual abuse prevention. These included $1 million (down from $2 million) appropriated to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support research on primary prevention of child sexual abuse. While not the original amount we were hoping for, that appropriation marks the first time in history that federal appropriations were tailored specifically toward research on child sexual abuse prevention.

In Related News

We asked Congress to require the CDC to write a report on gaps in child sexual abuse prevention, which set up the conversation about funding to fill those gaps. The CDC submitted the report in the final weeks of 2019. 

We worked resolutely on the re-authorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to include a focus on primary prevention. Negotiations on advancing that legislation continue into 2020.

Teacher Preparedness in SEL

February: We partnered with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to host our second briefing focused on the importance of teacher preparedness in SEL education. Here, our panel of notable figures in the field—including Tim Shriver, the co-founder and board chair of CASEL, and our own Dr. Mylien Duong, senior research scientist—presented recommendations for how policymakers can prioritize SEL within teacher preparedness programs.

Currently, multiple federal bills addressing teacher preparation include references to SEL, and negotiations around them continue into 2020.

December: In the FY20 Federal Appropriations, $23 million was appropriated for a new grant competition with priority for teacher professional development and teaching strategies that include SEL under the Supporting Effective Educator Development grants. Never has Congress appropriated funding at this level for SEL. A breakdown of those appropriations can be found here.

In Florida

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, we worked to incorporate SEL into the state’s mental health and school safety legislation. The result: Each school district in Florida is now guaranteed a minimum of $250,000 for Safe Schools activities, with a requirement to plan for the inclusion of SEL strategies before accessing those funds. In our Report to the Community (pg. 9), you can read in more detail about how we helped turn Senate Bill 7030 (the School Safety and Security bill) into law that includes SEL.

In Washington State

From our home base in Seattle, we track and analyze bills across the country. We stay  committed to our mission in the work we do to make sure that our local communities receive the same care we provide around the globe. Take a look at our work in 2019.

OSPI SEL Workgroup | Establishing a Common Language

We recently worked with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) SEL workgroup, which was tasked with developing standards, benchmarks, and indicators around SEL. We helped to establish a common language for the state to telegraph the importance of SEL to our communities and share why it should be treated with rigor in students’ education. Learn more.

Expanding SEL in Washington

We’re pleased to share that through our advocacy efforts, we helped pass Senate Bill 5082. Through this bill, we helped cause the state to adopt SEL standards (put forth by the OSPI SEL workgroup) which anchor SEL policy development long after the current buzz around it eventually fades. (Formal adoption is due this month.) The bill also allows the workgroup to continue to build on its prior efforts. We’re excited for our SEL work to continue here in Washington into 2020 and beyond!

Advocacy in Action—in Olympia

Every year, Committee for Children staffers and educators from around the state travel to Olympia for our annual Advocacy Day. This is a time when we meet face-to-face with legislators and staffers to talk about current legislation that we want them to support. Check out highlights from our Advocacy Day:

Become an SEL Advocate

We’ve already got a lot on the docket for 2020, including working with Congress and with legislatures in Indiana, Idaho, Florida, and Washington to advance SEL. Your lawmakers in these and other jurisdictions need to hear from you. Let us help you with that. Please sign up to become an advocate with us, and we’ll share key updates and give you straightforward opportunities to share your thoughts with your lawmakers in support of active SEL policy.