In his recently announced school safety plan, Gov. Greg Abbott recognizes the potential importance of school counselors in preventing campus violence. But I wonder if he ever gave school counselors a second thought before the Santa Fe shootings. As governor, he certainly hasn’t made much of an effort to pay for them.
At present, Texas doesn’t even require schools to have counselors. We are one of 20 states that don’t. So, our schools on average have 684 students for every counselor, the fifth highest student-to-counselor ratio in the country, according to information from the American School Counselor Association that was reported in the Texas Tribune.
As the state’s share of public education funding has steadily declined under Abbott, school districts have had to cut corners on counselors and a lot of other important student programs. And many of the counselors who districts have been able to hire are focused on academic issues, including STAAR-crazed student assessments, leaving little time for student behaviorial screening.
Abbott hints that he may recommend the Legislature increase funding for more counselors, but he also may prefer to leave the lion’s share of that big-ticket item to school districts and local property taxpayers. In the meantime, he suggests changes in funding restrictions so districts can “pool (existing) resources to better prioritize students’ emotional and mental health needs.”
If the governor is serious about this proposal, he will come up with a plan for increased state funding to help districts hire the additional thousands of counselors who will be needed for student behavioral as well as academic issues.