FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2002
AUSTIN, TX--State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., (D-Brownsville) praised the recently published report by the Texas Comptroller, "Guiding Our Children Toward Success: How Texas School Counselors Spend Their Time" for its thoroughness and accuracy. Legislation he passed last session prompted the report.
Senate Bill 518 from the 77th legislative session instructed the Texas Comptroller to: determine student-to-counselor ratios on Texas elementary, middle and high school campuses; conduct a statewide survey of how school counselors spend their time; and develop recommendations for future improvements.
Sen. Lucio said, "This detailed study is necessary to assess the current workload of counselors and to help identify any possible changes which would provide counselors with the resources and work environments they need to better perform their duties so critical to our children's well-being."
"As a former public school teacher and former school board president, but most importantly as a mother and grandmother, I know first hand how important counseling is to a quality education," Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander said. "I applaud the work of the dedicated school counselors throughout our state and I look forward to working with the Senator to ensure that these fine individuals have what they need to better serve our children."
The Comptroller distributed 9,942 surveys among K-12 public school counselors asking how they spend their time, and about 41 percent responded. The responses indicate that counselors spend up to 40 percent of their time on non-counseling activities, such as administrative tasks and administering statewide tests.
"The ideal would be to use more of a counselor's day on helping a student with a crisis or one who is considering dropping out of school," said Sen. Lucio. "I realize that administrative tasks are necessary and essential to a school district, but I would like to find the means to reduce the amount of time spent on these tasks and redirect it to counseling."
The average 2001-02 counselor-to-student ratio in Texas is 1 to 423. Elementary schools had the highest ratio with 1 to 555. The report also identified that district wealth did not necessarily impact the ratios. The ratio disparity seemed to increase as the district enrollment increased.
Sen. Lucio is concerned that school counselors are overloaded and students in need of counseling may not be receiving necessary services. He would like to see ratios decrease so that student needs are better met.
The Comptroller makes several recommendations in the report. The first is that each school district create a policy on the appropriate use of a counselor's time. "Counselors told us that administering tests and performing other clerical duties reduces their availability to students," Rylander said. "I believe a local policy is the best way to preserve local control while still bringing this vital issue before the school board, school staff, and the community."
Also, the Comptroller wants the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to expand their District Effectiveness and Compliance (DEC) visits to include a review of the district's local guidance and counseling policy. Another recommendation is that grant counselors (those with salaries paid from grant funds) file their timesheets electronically, so that the information can be analyzed and reported to the Legislature.
Senator Lucio added, "I'm extremely elated that this report finally recognizes public school counselors in Texas. The importance of their jobs cannot be overstated. The next session we'll consider issues to strengthen the role of public schools.
"I believe counselors can serve as the catalyst to bring together school officials, teachers, parents and students to strengthen the public schools. I am confident in the training of public school counselors and feel they can take up and prepare students' problems/concerns more effectively. They have their 'finger on the pulse' concerning issues affecting our public school children."