SEL in the House: Democrats Approve Millions in Landmark Federal Funding for Social-Emotional Learning in Bill That Now Faces Test in Senate

In what’s been described as a landmark investment from the federal government in social-emotional learning, the House of Representatives approved a spending bill last month that included $260 million in funding for what it calls “whole child” initiatives within the Department of Education.

The funding is divided into four areas:

1. $170 million through the Education Innovation and Research program to provide grants for evidence-based innovations that support students’ social, emotional and cognitive well-being;

2. $25 million to support teacher professional development, which comes through the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program;

3. $40 million for the Full-Service Community Schools Program to support students’ and families’ holistic needs; and

4. $25 million for School Safety National Activities to add more school counselors, mental health professionals and social workers who are qualified to work in schools.

“Research shows that building the capacity of students to develop social and emotional skills, and take responsibility for their community, can reduce bullying, violence, and aggressive behaviors, making schools safer,” the House appropriations committee wrote.

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Problem:  we take kids out of their homes as tiny babies and stick them in group care from 0-3.  Group care does not and cannot provide relational intimacy.  Then we try to jam in some 'social emotional learning' from 3-6. 

What's wrong with this picture?  It has nothing to do with brain development.

Social /emotional learning is largely a RIGHT brain skill.  Emotional self regulation is definitely a right brain skill.  The right brain learns implicitly, not explicitly.  Through repeated routines and experiences of 'how things are.'  And the right brain learns the most between 0-3. 

Trying to override a jumpy, distrusting R brain with L brain cognitions is an uphill battle many on this forum have faced personally.  Talking one's right brain down from the ledge can be exhausting and often futile.

The dyad-- attentive, one-on-one care in babyhood-- is the vehicle for conveying SEL.  It comes from a non-verbal sense of being held, loved, seen, and responded-to.  It's an assumption of "I matter" because you have consistently been treated as though you do matter all day long by important loved ones who stay in your life.

Great article, but I wish you would have left the party out of it. The bill was approved by representatives on both sides of the aisle. To have the greatest positive impact on our society, partisan politics needs to take a break. There are people who will balk at this good news because Democrats are getting the credit—just as there are many Democrats who would balk at the news if this bill had been crafted by Republicans. We'll get a much wider reach if we leave the parties out of it.

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