School Guidance Counselors, Nurses and Related Professionals

I love the Opt Ed section of the paper. I believe we all need to write at least one letter on something we’re passionate about in our lifetime. In saying that, I applaud this reader

Nearly two years of pandemic strain have spotlighted the importance of our children’s social and emotional well-being. This session, lawmakers must bolster the state’s historically inadequate funding for school nurses, social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors and other school staff working to safeguard students’ mental and emotional health.

Washington’s current state formula funds one guidance counselor for every 811 elementary or 355 middle-school students — far fewer than the American School Counselor Association’s recommended 1:250 ratio. The existing ratio funds one full-time school nurse for every 5,263 elementary students, 7,200 middle school students or 6,250 students in high school. The ratios are even greater for school psychologists and social workers. These formulas lead to paltry allocations that do not meet student need.

For four years, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal has asked lawmakers to adopt more realistic funding formulas. Meanwhile, school districts that can rally voter support have used local property-tax levies to supplement meager state allocations. This practice exacerbates inequities between districts in property-rich communities and those in less well-to-do areas, where local levies are more difficult to pass.

State Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, has scheduled a Jan. 12 hearing for a bill she has filed that would decrease the staff-to-student ratios for counselors, nurses, psychologists and other staff safeguarding students’ physical, social and emotional well-being. This is an important first step toward full state support for these essential positions.

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