Charter Management Organization (CMO) Coalition Advocates For Student Mental Health Supports


The Honorable Bernie Sanders
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Bill Cassidy
Ranking Member
Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Virginia Foxx
Committee on Education and the Workforce
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Bobby Scott
Ranking Member
Committee on Education and the Workforce
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515


Dear Chairman Sanders, Chairwoman Foxx, Ranking Member Cassidy, and Ranking Member Scott:

The Charter Management Organization (CMO) Coalition is a national collaborative of high-quality public charter schools serving over 320,000 students in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Together with students and families, our coalition advocates for policies that center the needs and aspirations of our students, alumni, and families, guided by shared principles of justice, equity, and collectivism. Informed by input from our school communities, our coalition advocates for investments in student mental health because we recognize that the long-term consequences of the pandemic, as well as the realities of racial injustice and structural poverty, continue to have a profound impact on our students and school communities. We urge Congress to invest in evidence-based strategies to meet students’ mental health needs, and to prioritize program implementation and oversight in service of the mental health and well-being of public school students across the nation.

In the past two years, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Association, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry have declared a national emergency in children’s mental health.1 Depression and anxiety impact an overwhelming number of America’s middle and high school students, particularly LGBTQ+ students and Black and Latinx students, hindering efforts to recover learning lost throughout the pandemic. Secondary students identify depression, stress, and anxiety as their most common barrier to learning, and fewer than half of them, regardless of gender, sexual and racial identity, have an adult they feel comfortable talking to when distressed or upset.2 Across our school communities, our students, families, and educators are experiencing the lived reality of this shocking data and bearing the brunt of a national crisis in student mental health.

We recognize and applaud the investments made in the past year by Congress and the Biden Administration to support the recovery and well-being of public school students across the nation, notably through key provisions of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. As this law is implemented, we encourage policymakers to provide support and oversight to ensure that the allocated funds are spent with the well-being of the whole child in mind. Research shows that investments in school security, while well-intentioned, can compound stress and anxiety for our students, especially for Black and Latinx students and students from low-income backgrounds.3 As a coalition, we believe that the most important investments that schools can make to support student well-being are in school climate and mental health resources, such as social emotional learning curricula, school-based mental health services, and trauma-informed training for educators. We are grateful that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act supports our ongoing work in these crucial areas.

For many young people, school is the primary provider of mental health resources.4 From March- October 2020, when many schools relied solely on virtual learning, the CDC reported an increase in mental health-related emergency department visits by 24% for children 5-11 and 31% for those ages 12 to 17 when compared to ED visits in 2019.5 This increase is arguably due to lack of access to school-based mental health support during that period. School-based mental health services improve access to care, allow for early identification and treatment, and is linked to reduced absenteeism and better academic outcomes.6 When working in school settings, mental health professionals improve staff retention, help keep students in school, and promote learning environments where students feel safe, supported, and ready to learn.7 In addition to clinical services provided by school-based mental health practitioners, universal programming such as integrated social emotional learning curricula and mental health literacy programs have a proven track record of lifting student outcomes.8 To support the pressing need for comprehensive mental health services for all public school students, we strongly urge Congress to provide robust federal investments that will help high-need districts recruit and retain highly qualified mental health professionals, as well as support and funding for evidence- based social emotional learning resources.

Across the country, high-quality public charter schools continuously invest in innovative mental health programs and services to best support our students and families. CMOs across our coalition are eager to collaborate with policymakers and practitioners as we work to address a national mental health crisis. Below are a few examples of the work that public charter schools are leading in this area:

  • In KIPP’s Southern California (KIPP SoCal) region, the Mental Health and Support Services Department consists of licensed and certified school counselors and social workers, psychologists, and 9 Every KIPP SoCal school has a licensed mental health practitioner who provides a range of tiered and personalized counseling, referral, and social and emotional services for students, families, and staff. In the 2022-2023 school year, 100% of KIPP SoCal schools meet or exceed recommended ratios for psychologists and counselors to students.10 KIPP SoCal also recently purchased a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum, Ripple Effects, that provides trauma-informed, culturally responsive, evidence-based digital tools for the delivery of personalized resources and training.11
  • Across Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Cincinnati, IDEA Public Schools (IDEA) and its affiliates employ over 120 school counselors and social workers that play a critical role in creating safe and welcoming learning 12 IDEA has committed to staffing each school in the network with a licensed counselor or mental health professional. These team members provide high-quality counseling services that strengthen student wellness and sense of belonging, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, and connecting students and families to community resources. They also direct the implementation of IDEA’s district-wide SEL curriculum, Move This World, through training, observations, and coaching.13 Through a comprehensive counseling and SEL plan, IDEA seeks to provide students with holistic support that allows them to thrive in school and beyond.
  • Across the city of Chicago, Noble Schools focuses their mental health work on identifying high quality partnerships that support students and families on a local 14 Through their partnership with Care Solace, which offers mental health care coordination for school districts, Noble connects students, families, and staff members with high-quality local behavioral health care, including social, emotional, and mental health supports and substance abuse prevention and treatment services. Noble has also partnered with Gads Hill Center, a 125-year-old nonprofit in the Chicago area, to support students, teachers, and families across 6 of the campuses in their Healthy Mind, Healthy Schools (HMHS) program. HMHS uses a holistic model, offering services directly on campus.

Public charter schools across the nation are leveraging unique partnerships and innovative programs to connect families and staff with highly effective and culturally competent mental health services. Despite our focus on expanding access to care, we continue to face significant challenges, including provider shortages and inadequate funding. While we are proud of the work that public charter schools are leading in this area, more support is necessary to ensure that the mental health needs of all public school students are met.

We urge you to prioritize further investments and oversight of the mental health and well-being of public school students across the nation, and we are eager to partner on this important issue facing the 118th Congress.


In partnership,


Alliance College-Ready Public Schools
Blackstone Valley Prep
Breakthrough Public Schools
Clarksdale Collegiate Public Charter Schools
DC Prep
Democracy Prep Public Schools
Green Dot Public Schools
California Green Dot Public Schools
National IDEA Public Schools
KIPP Foundation
KIPP Indy Public Schools
KIPP Jacksonville Public Schools
KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools
KIPP New Orleans Schools
KIPP North Carolina Public Schools
KIPP Northern California Public Schools
KIPP Philadelphia Public Schools
KIPP SoCal Public Schools
KIPP St. Louis Public Schools
KIPP Texas Public Schools
National Charter Collaborative
Noble Schools
ReGeneration Schools
Rocketship Public Schools
Uplift Education
YES Prep Public Schools

1 American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021, October 19). AAP-AACAP-CHA Declaration of a National Emergency in Child and Adolescent Mental Health. adolescent-mental-health/

2 YouthTruth. (2022, Fall). Insights From the Student Experience: Emotional & Mental Health. experience-part-i-emotional-and-mental-health/

3 Nancy Duchesneau. (2022, Oct 3). The Case for Increasing School Safety by Investing in Student Mental Health. The Education Trust.

4 National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.) Mental Health In Schools. (Retrieved January 26, 2023). Priorities/Improving-Health/Mental-Health-in-Schools

5 Leeb RT, Bitsko RH, Radhakrishnan L, Martinez P, Njai R, Holland KM. Mental Health–Related Emergency Department Visits Among Children Aged <18 Years During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, January 1–October 17, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1675–1680. DOI:

6 N. Panchal, C. Cox, R. Rudowitz. (2022, September 6). The Landscape of School-Based Mental Health Services. landscape-of-school-based-mental-health-services/

7 S. Hoover, J. Bostic. (2020, November 3). Schools as a vital component of the child and adolescent mental health system. Psychiatric Services, 72 (1) (2021), pp. 37-48.

8 Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). (n.d.). What Does the Research Say? Demand for SEL is on the rise, and it is easy to see why: SEL makes a difference. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from

9 KIPP Public Schools is a national network of public charter schools that prepares students with the skills and confidence to create the future they want for themselves, their communities, and us all. (More information is available at

10 KIPP SoCal Public Schools. (n.d.). Mental Health & Support Services. (Retrieved January 26, 2023). services/

11 Ripple Effects. (n.d.). Programs.

12 IDEA Public Schools aims to close the opportunity gap and increase levels of achievement by preparing students from underserved communities for success in college and citizenship. (More information is available at

13 IDEA Public Schools. (2021, May 12). IDEA Public Schools Launched Social Emotional Learning for All Students in 20-21 School Year Through Move This World.

14 Noble Schools serve more than 12,700 students across 18 campuses in Chicago and are nationally recognized for exceptional performance in college access and persistence. (More information is available at