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07/24/2024 11:05 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate
https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=S&SPick=20230&cosponId=40903
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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: June 2, 2023 09:21 AM
From: Senator Lindsey M. Williams
To: All Senate members
Subject: Increasing Student Success with More School Counselor Support
 
I will soon introduce the School Counseling Services Act, a companion to HB662 sponsored by Representatives Dan L. Miller and Mandy Steele.
 
School counselors fill a tremendous role in students’ lives, ensuring that they have the tools, resources, and supports to be successful in school and beyond. Despite the importance of the job they do, school counselors are often pulled from their regular duties to pitch in and “wear multiple hats,” covering classrooms and other areas as needed. This happens more and more frequently as schools attempt to navigate the educator shortage crisis and realities of inadequate and inequitable school funding.
 
I’m incredibly grateful to these educators for stepping up to address these immediate needs and fix problems in the short-term. But it’s time to provide long-term solutions that allow counselors to provide the services that our students need and deserve.
 
Currently, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that does not require standardized school counseling services in all schools. My legislation would create the School Counseling Services Act, which would require that schools develop a robust and comprehensive school counseling plan. The plan would ensure that academic, career planning, and social and emotional learning concerns are addressed,  include a multilevel school data review to determine student needs, and align with guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
 
In addition to requiring a comprehensive school counseling plan, this bill would spell out how counselors spend their time, requiring that they spend at least 80% of their working time engaged in direct and indirect services to students on days that students were in school. These services could involve academic advising, career planning, social and emotional skill building, intervening with students at risk of dropping out, orienting new and transferring students, and contributing to decision-making teams and programs that directly impact students and families.
 
I’ve heard from too many school-based mental health professionals who have left schools because not enough of their time was spent working directly with students. This legislation would reverse that trend by ensuring that the bulk of their time is spent providing services to students.
 
The School Counseling Services Act is complementary to our constitutional obligations to fully and equitably fund our public education system. While the bill does not appropriate specific funds, it is consistent with the increases for basic education, special education, early childhood, and school facilities that the General Assembly has been court-ordered to provide for students across the Commonwealth.  
 
I am incredibly grateful for school counselors who have provided invaluable support to so many students. We must do everything possible to keep the caring professionals who are already in our schools there, while we build pipelines to recruit their future colleagues.

Please join me in strengthening school counseling services in the Commonwealth and supporting school counselors to do the work they are trained and eager to do.  



Introduced as SB33