Chair DeLauro Statement at the Social and Emotional Learning and Whole Child Approaches in K-12 Education Hearing

2022-04-06 10:55

House Appropriations Committee Chair and Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on Social and Emotional Learning and Whole Child Approaches in K-12 Education:

I want to acknowledge Ranking Member Cole and all of my colleagues for joining. And thank you to our witnesses for testifying. Very, very excited about all of you this morning. Dr. Pamela Cantor, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Mr. Max Eden, and Dr. Timothy Shriver. I will provide a more fulsome introduction before their testimony, but I’m so delighted that they could all join us for this hearing.

American author, social critic and educator, Neil Postman once said, and I quote, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” They are quite literally the legacy we leave behind us and the surety that everything we do continues onward making the world a better place when we are gone. Which is why it is not only incumbent on parents and educators to ensure our nation’s children are primed to meet the challenges of the future. It is also incumbent on all of us, especially legislators, to ensure they are sufficiently prepared – not only intellectually, but emotionally, and socially as well.

Decades of adolescent development research have shown that all aspects of a child’s well-being must be supported if we are to ensure their success. The Learning Policy Institute would state that and I quote, “a whole child approach to education is premised on the fact that children’s learning depends on the combination of instructional, relational, and environmental factors the child experiences, along with the cognitive, social, and emotional processes that influence one another as they shape the child’s growth and development.”

Fortunately, there are a variety of strategies that instructional and school leaders can employ to support the whole child, including Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions. The evidence base behind these interventions is overwhelming—high-quality SEL programs that support students’ social, emotional, and cognitive development result in lasting positive academic and life outcomes. Four meta-analyses conducted by CASEL and researchers over the past decade found that students participating in SEL programs showed significantly more positive outcomes related to academic performance and positive behavior. A 2021 evidence review by the Early Intervention Foundation found that SEL interventions are effective at enhancing students’ social and emotional skills while reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. And RAND Corporation found that there are at least 60 SEL interventions that have been evaluated and that meet the evidence requirements for the Every Student Succeeds Act, the elementary and secondary education law reauthorized in 2015.

In fact, the evidence in support of these interventions is so strong that a 2015 bipartisan report from American Enterprise Institute and Brookings concluded that, quote, “the federal government should provide resources for state and local education authorities to implement and scale evidence-based social-emotional learning practices and policies.”

I could not agree more. For too long, education policymakers at the federal level have been slow to focus necessary attention and resources on approaches that adequately address the holistic needs of students to drive stronger achievement in school and beyond. And in light of the extreme stress and hardship our country’s most vulnerable students have faced during the COVD-19 pandemic, these effective strategies are needed more than ever.

Which is why, in the first year of chairing of this subcommittee, in fiscal year 2020, we created an initiative in the Labor-H bill on SEL and Whole Child Approaches in K-12 education. In the recently passed, bipartisan fiscal year 2022 omnibus appropriations package, this initiative includes $82 million for evidence-based, field-initiated SEL grants that address student social, emotional, and cognitive needs within the Education Innovation and Research program. It includes $85 million for the Supporting Effective Educator Development program – with a priority for professional development and pathways into teaching and school leadership that provide a strong foundation in implementing SEL and “whole child” strategies. And further, $111 million is set aside for School-based Mental Health Professionals grants – to help local education agencies directly increase the number of mental health professionals in schools. And finally, there is $75 million for Full-Service Community Schools – providing comprehensive services and expand evidence-based models that meet the holistic needs of children, families, and communities.

The Subcommittee’s work is a direct response to what has been recommended strategies and approaches that are championed by our witnesses and was significantly influenced by the landmark National Commission on Social Emotional and Academic Development report.

We started from nearly $0 for these SEL and whole child programs just a couple of years ago and to secure these resources which has been as I said a long time coming. I was thrilled to work with Ranking Member Cole and my colleagues in the House and Senate to get this done. And so many of the efforts about promoting social and emotional learning come from members of this subcommittee.

Appropriations legislation requires negotiation and agreement from both parties and chambers of Congress, so I am proud that our bipartisan legislation has included the SEL and Whole Child Approaches initiative for the past three years.

The initiative was inspired by Dr. James Comer, a psychiatrist at the Yale Child Study center who worked with New Haven Public Schools starting in 1968. His model for child learning demonstrates how focusing on positive school environments and students’ social and emotional needs is necessary to promote their cognitive development and academic success.

I hope that in this hearing today we can learn more about the overwhelming body of evidence in support of these programs and the federal support that is needed. I am especially eager to ask our witnesses where it is we need to go and where the resources are best used. But before we turn to our witnesses let me yield to my colleague the Ranking Member, Mr. Cole, for any opening remarks he may have.

117th Congress