Federal leaders visit St. Louis to talk about funding education, mental health

Federal leaders are riding a bus across the country talking about raising the bar on education.
Published: Sep. 6, 2023 at 7:35 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Federal leaders are riding a bus across the country to discuss raising the bar on education.

On Wednesday, they stopped in St. Louis to visit the Compton Drew Middle School near Forest Park.

Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona began the chat by asking St. Louis educators what’s most needed.

“Our kids are resilient, but we need to do better,” Secretary Cardona said.

One of the big focuses was improving the health services needed in St. Louis schools.

Compton Drew Middle School social worker Tracey Moore has implemented a wellness room at the middle school to give kids a chance to do yoga, relax in a lounge chair and focus on their wellness.

“Our kids are hurting,” Moore said. “Hurt kids, hurt people, hurt people, and that’s what sometimes we see.”

Congresswoman Cori Bush said kids have come to her office asking for more mental health services.

“After the shooting at CVPA, they said we’re afraid in school,” Congresswoman Bush said. “We don’t feel safe. When we’re hearing from the students that they don’t feel safe and then when we hear from the parents that I don’t feel safe sending my kid to school, but what else do I do?”

That’s where US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra comes in, saying more needs to be done not only to raise the bar with academics but also with the health services offered in school.

“It is hard to learn if you are hungry,” Secretary Becerra said. “It is hard to learn if you are unhoused. It is hard to learn if you are burdened by stress and trauma.”

However, teacher shortages pose a problem, as well as pay.

A recent St. Louis University poll shows a majority of people think teachers should be paid more.

Secretary Cardona said it’s a national issue that he’s working to fix.

“Lifting the teaching profession,” Secretary Cardona said. “Making sure we’re fighting for competitive salaries. Making sure we’re fighting for good working conditions for teachers and making sure we’re advocating for agency for our educators.”

The next stop on the tour was Harris-Stowe State University, where the focus was on the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund helping HBCU students thrive.

Student Jordan Ross was able to stay in college because of that funding.

Ross left St. Louis to go to another college, but with high tuition, it was hard for him to afford it.

“Being able to provide opportunities when there is a disparity of hope sometimes can do a lot beyond just the financials but also just the mental well-being of a community,” Ross said.

Ross transferred back to Harris-Stowe and now wants others to know what’s available to them right here in the Lou.

“It also provides a pipeline to reinforce students not leaving St. Louis,” Ross said. “I was one of the students who left because I thought there wasn’t any opportunity. Once I came back, I was able to see the opportunity was there because the resources were allotted to the school.”

This initiative started with funding from the American Rescue Plan, but to continue to raise the bar, Secretary Cardona said he wants local and state governments to match the federal urgency around education funding.

Secretary Cardona said if we invest in our schools, we invest in our country.