Nearly every school district in Wisconsin, including over 450 local education agencies, will be awarded funds to provide mental healthcare through the governor’s “Get Kids Ahead” initiative.
The dispersal of funds will fulfill a promise Gov. Tony Evers made during his 2022 State of the State address on top of the investments that have already been made in state budgets.
“We know that long before the pandemic hit, kids across our state were already facing immense challenges with their mental health, but as parents and educators are seeing firsthand, these challenges have only been made worse by the isolating and traumatic events of the past two years,” said Evers. “These funds will go directly towards whatever mental health support and services our kids need so they can be successful both in and out of the classroom to help them grow learn, and get ahead.”
These funds will be directed towards providing mental health professionals, trauma-based care training to educational staff and family assistance programs. Each public school district was guaranteed a minimum of $10,000 as a part of this program, with the remainder allocated on a per-pupil basis.
Three tribally-controlled schools in Wisconsin eligible to receive funds via Get Kids Ahead are not included in this list.
In addition, Evers announced two $2.5 million grant programs last week for telehealth providers to expand and enhance child psychiatry services and partner with community organizations to establish neighborhood telehealth access points at food pantries, homeless shelters, libraries, long-term care facilities, community centers and schools for people with limited access to technology and the internet.
These programs come in response to a pressing need for improved student mental health services after the pandemic and are part of the broader initiative for Wisconsin’s recovery from COVID-19.
“This funding to support student mental health is already going out the door and making a difference in the lives of Wisconsin’s children,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jill Underly. “I commend the governor for his leadership, and for ensuring that this funding was both flexible enough for schools to access it effectively and intentional enough that it is truly addressing students’ needs.”
In the 2021 to 2023 biennial budget, the governor initially proposed $53.5 million for student mental health services, but the legislature cut the combined funding to a $19 million increase. In December 2021, Evers provided an additional $110 million that schools could use for anything kids needed to be successful, including mental health support and more educational and extracurricular opportunities.
“I sincerely appreciate that Governor Evers has never stopped fighting for the needs of our children and our schools,” Rep. Sondy Pope (D-Mt. Horeb), a Democratic member of the Assembly Committee on Education stated. “Prioritizing student mental health is essential for ensuring they are able to achieve academic success, participate in extracurriculars and grow in other critical ways.”
Alex Tan is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in state politics coverage. Follow him on Twitter at @dxvilsavocado.