FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 02/01/2011
Representative Castro Proposes Fundamental Changes to Support School Counselors in Texas
AUSTIN − Representative Joaquin Castro (San Antonio) filed a host of bills yesterday aimed at protecting the vital role that school counselors play in the education and development of students in Texas. The bills introduced will fundamentally change the way the state trains, educates and certifies public school counselors. In addition, public schools will be held accountable that choose not to employ a full-time counselor.
"Public school counselors have faced persistent challenges in Texas. At the root of these issues is a fundamental flaw in the way institutions and the state of Texas perceive these professionals. Counselors and other support personnel should not be after-thoughts. We need to change the conversation," said Representative Castro.
The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) is responsible for establishing the standards that govern the issuance of the Standard School Counseling Certificate. Of the 44 standards that are identified as necessary components of a school counselor preparation program, not a single one specifically addresses the college admissions and financial aid process (Texas Administrative Code, Title 19, § 239.15). Yet, state statute (Education Code 33.007) requires high school counselors to provide this information to students. HB 1016 would require that counselor certification programs specifically train counselor-applicants on the admissions and financial aid processes for higher education.
"The state has been sending mixed messages to school counselors for years. If we expect our counselors to continue helping students get into the colleges and careers they deserve, then we need to provide the requisite training and support." said Representative Castro
Another bill, HB 1019 would require SBEC to issue separate certifications for elementary and secondary counselors. Currently, once a counselor-applicant obtains a Standard School Counselor Certificate, they may become a school counselor at any grade level.
"The uniform nature of our counselor certification process is incredibly revealing," said Representative Castro. He continued, "It spotlights an important assumption that policy makers have made for years; that the duties and responsibilities of an elementary school counselor are the same as those of a high school counselor. Clearly, they are not."
At least six states already issue school counseling certificates separately for elementary and secondary counselors. All of these states are ahead of Texas in the percentage of students who enroll in college directly from high school.
Finally, HB 1017 and HB 1018 would hold individual schools and districts accountable by requiring them to notify parents if their school chooses not to employ at least one full-time counselor. Texas law does not require schools to hire a school counselor. According to a report issued by the Legislative Budget Board this month, at least 748 campuses in Texas do not employ a school counselor.
"Our public school counselors play a critical role in the development and education of our youth. It is time we have a serious conversation about how our state is supporting these professionals," said Representative Castro.
Representative Castro has focused on counseling issues in previous sessions, including authoring bills to improve counselor-to-student ratios and to limit the amount of non-counseling duties that school districts may assign to a counselor. The American Counselor Association recommends a counselor-to-student ratio of 1:350. The Texas average is 1:429.