By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A prominent education voice says that as the Philadelphia school district cuts its budget, it should make keeping its schools psychologists a priority.

No decision have been made yet, but reducing the number of school psychologists is among the budget-cutting moves being considered by the School District of Philadelphia.

Speaking to a meeting of the National Association of School Psychologists today at a center city hotel, former Philadelphia school principal Salome Thomas-El (at left in photo) said often it’s the psychologist who is able to help a struggling student succeed.

“It would be a huge mistake for any school district — not just Philadelphia, any school district — to cut the positions of people who serve our children in such an important way,” he says.

The Philadelphia school district is trying to find ways to cut $39 million more from its budget by June (see related story).

Kathy Minke, the NASP’s past president, says Philadelphia isn’t the only school district where psychologists face cuts.

“I would say the situation in Philadelphia seems to be more severe than what we’re seeing in a lot of areas in the country,” she tells KYW Newsradio, “but clearly the economy has forced hard choices on school districts.”

Pennsylvania requires districts to have psychologists on evaluation teams.  The services can be contracted out but Amy Smith, the NASP’s president-elect, says it’s better to have full-timers on staff to develop consistent relationships with students who need them.

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