Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says teachers are taking on demands outside their job description, such as handling the mental-health challenges of their students.
Buttigieg made the comments during the Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina on Tuesday. He and six other candidates who took the stage offered their vision for the federal Department of Education and outlined what they’d look for in an education secretary.
If elected president, he said, he’d prioritize the needs of the nation’s educators, through wage increases and by picking federal officials who back teachers.
“Teachers are being expected to handle the mental-health challenges that their students are facing because we don’t have an adequate mental-health system to support kids,” said Buttigieg, whose husband is a teacher. “We have to show not only with compensation, but with support for the profession overall our regard for those who are educating our kids.”
In Washington, lawmakers are considering a slew of bills that would strengthen students’ access to mental-health support in school. One bill would tighten the definition of school counselors’ duties: These staff are tasked with helping students through both social-emotional and academic challenges, but many counselors report being asked to fill other roles, such as supervising recess or working as a crossing guard. This measure passed the Senate but is still under consideration by the House.
Another bill aimed to change the way the state funds mental-health professionals in schools, but promised to be too costly to get much backing by lawmakers during this year’s short legislative session. The bill died in committee.