Fitzpatrick’s bipartisan bill increases access to specialized instructional support personnel

A new bipartisan bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) would increase access to specialized instructional support personnel (SISPs) for students in rural and lower-income school districts. 

The congressman said that SISPs work in schools across the country to support students and foster positive and safe learning environments. “Unfortunately, there is a nationwide shortage of qualified SISPs, particularly in rural and lower-income school districts, and the demand for these professionals is only increasing,” he said.

The Growing, Recruiting, and Obtaining Workers in Specialized Instructional Support Personnel Services Act, H.R. 7219 — also known as the GROW SISPS Act — would create a federal grant program to increase partnerships between school districts and colleges for training and certifying SISPs, who work with teachers, school support staff, parents, community members, and other education stakeholders to help students remove learning barriers, according to information provided by Rep. Fitzpatrick’s office.

SISPs may include school-based mental health professionals like school counselors, school psychologists and other professionals, the information says.

“Our legislation will establish a Department of Education grant program that will allow these underserved school districts to bolster recruitment and retention of qualified SISP professionals so that schools can provide crucial support services and meet student needs,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick, who cosponsored H.R. 7219 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Marie Newman (D-IL).

“At a time when schools are facing national workforce shortages and students are reeling from mental health crises caused by the pandemic, I am proud to introduce this comprehensive, bipartisan legislation to better support our students, teachers, parents and entire communities across the nation,” Rep. Newman said. 

According to the text of the bill, grants would be awarded for a six-year period for eligible partnerships to expand or establish and implement a Grow Your Own Program that helps schools recruit, develop and retain SISPs who are already in the community.

Several organizations support H.R. 7219, including the National Association of School Psychologists, the Council of Administrators of Special Education, and the American Occupational Therapy Association.