Bill would address counselor shortage in Philly schools
PHILADELPHIA The impact of the Philadelphia School District's budget crunch is far-reaching, but one cut stood out to State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D., Phila.) - a shortage of counseling services.
Constituents in his district, which includes parts of Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County, often brought up the topic with Boyle and his staff.
"They said, 'The waiting list to see a counselor is forever,' " he said. "It's a huge problem, and very few people are paying attention to it."
So, Boyle recently introduced legislation to address the problem. His bill would amend the state public school code to lower the student-counselor ratio at all public schools - to 375-1 in elementary schools and 325-1 in high schools. Each is based on recommendations by the American School Counselor Association.
Without the legislation, counseling services are vulnerable statewide, Boyle said. Though most schools have them, the school code does not mandate them.
"It's easy to cut school counselors now," he said.
In Philadelphia, many schools lack full-time counselors. Those that have them often have high student-to-counselor ratios. At Central High, two counselors serve 2,400 students, for example; Northeast High, with 3,000 students, has two full-time and two part-time counselors.
Across the state, most districts meet the standard Boyle hopes to achieve, but there are anomalies. Research shows that academics improve and discipline problems decrease when students have adequate access to counselors.
Boyle acknowledges political reality. "This is a governor and a majority in the legislature that has cut over $1 billion from education, that's not exactly friendly to Philadelphia," he said.
But, Boyle said, he has had some interest from suburban Republicans, and believes that Gov. Corbett's reelection campaign could spark some interest in his bill.
"For a governor whose approval is so low, in part because of his cuts to education, here is something that he can do to improve the situation in a really meaningful way," Boyle said. "In the districts where it is a problem, it is a major problem, particularly in Philadelphia."