State leaders need to address severe shortage of school counselors

/ 14 February 2014 / eunice

David Warner, MinnPost Community Voices, February 14, 2014 – Minnesota has one school counselor for every 792 students, ranking it 48th in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. For a state that comes out on top in so many areas, we are woefully short in providing sufficient counseling services for our kids. Gov. Mark Dayton raised awareness of this issue last week when he declared it “School Counseling Week” to highlight the vital role that school counselors play in student success.

I applaud Dayton’s action and echo his call for more work to be done on this important issue. Minnesota school counselors are stretched beyond capacity. Our schools need more professional counselors to help with the growing number of issues that confront students every day.

We are urging state leaders to help.

Counselors serve in many capacities

While professional school counselors are known for helping students explore their abilities, strengths, interests and talents, our work goes well beyond that. We are certified and licensed educators who are uniquely qualified to help students maximize their academic success, career readiness, and personal and social development. We help students and their parents plan for college and ensure they are prepared to enter the work force.

We also support a safe learning environment, which students and school leaders rely on. Minnesota has one of the most inadequate anti-bullying laws in the country. It is crucial that the Minnesota Legislature pass the Safe & Supportive Schools Act this session so that we can create a safe environment for our kids under one of the nation’s most robust anti-bullying laws.

In addition, we must ensure we have adequate school counselors to implement the policies to keep students safe.

The need keeps expanding

A report released by Minnesota 2020 in 2009 showed the rapidly expanding need for mental-health professionals in our schools to support safe and effective learning. According to the report, 92 percent of counselors said a lack of state support is the leading challenge facing school counselors. In addition, more than 90 percent of them had helped students address interpersonal and family problems, depression, aggressive or disruptive behavior, anxiety, and ADHD.

The Minnesota School Counselors Association will work with Gov. Dayton and the Legislature in 2014 to continue advocating for additional school counselors to help ease excessive caseloads, fulfill students’ needs, and increase everyone’s chance for success.

David Warner is president of the Minnesota School Counselors Association and an elementary school counselor in the Osseo School District.