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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 4, 2014 10:45 AM
From: Representative Kevin J. Boyle
To: All House members
Subject: Student/Counselor Ratio Legislation

In the near future, I plan to re-introduce legislation which will amend the Public School Code of 1949 to ensure that all public schools in the Commonwealth meet a predetermined ratio of students for every school counselor. This bill was originally introduced last session by Representative Brendan Boyle as House Bill 1844.

The role counselors fill in our public schools is varied and encompasses elements of academic and career counseling, assistance with course selection and scheduling, as well as advising students confronted with family or academic problems at home and in school. Counselors also work with older students in areas such as chemical dependence prevention and intervention, as well as crisis and mental health counseling.

Academic research has demonstrated that there is a positive relationship between access to counseling services and improved academic outcomes in schools. Increased access is also shown to reduce the frequency and severity of student disciplinary incidents. According to the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), fourteen states have enacted laws that require schools to adhere to a predetermined student/counselor ratio: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Vermont and Virginia.

Following a two year probationary period, this legislation would require all public schools in this Commonwealth from kindergarten to eighth grade to provide one certified school counselor for every 375 students, and all public high schools to provide one certified school counselor for every 325 students. Additionally, the role and general duties of school counselors within the Public School Code would be outlined to accurately reflect the broad based nature of their work.

With an overall drop in basic education spending over the past several years affecting the budgets of individual school districts across the Commonwealth, many school counselors have seen their jobs eliminated. This trend has threatened to drive up the ratio of students to counselors and reduce access to counseling services, particularly in cities such as Philadelphia where the student/counselor ratio is nearly 600:1. This legislation would ensure that counselors are able to offer more of their time and resources to individual students, and would protect students from reduced access to vital counseling services.

Please join me in supporting this legislation.

Introduced as HB1036