THERE IS A JUGGLING HAPPENING IN SCHOOLS AND PENDING LEGISLATION COULD MEAN GOOD THINGS FOR STUDENTS
By Kimberly Caputo, Esq.
Every day in any one of the over 3000 Pennsylvania public schools and 100 or more Charter schools juggling happens and it very easily could look like this:
- Teachers call out sick, substitutes are not available, and remaining staff scramble to cover classes
- Buses are late due to inclement weather and an accident
- Multiple students arrive at school upset due to something that happened the night before or on the way to school
- Social medial has exploded with 5 different “stories” involving members of a class
- A young student lost a grandparent residing with the family and with whom the student had a special bond
- 3 students witnessed violence in their homes or in their neighborhoods
- Students with IEPS and 504 plans need support with planning for SAT and ACT testing
- Students need some 1-1 time or small group time to work through some conflicts that arose in the lunchroom
Every one of these scenarios recurs throughout a school day along with countless others and school counselors, psychologists and social workers are called on to respond. In Pennsylvania the ratio of school psychologists to students is: 1:1400 and for counselors in schools the ratio is 1:380. With regard to school social workers, according to 2017-18 figures, there were only 328 school social workers connected to school age programs which is alarming given there are 3,287 public schools and 120 Charter schools in the Commonwealth.
Right now there are companion bills in the Pennsylvania House and Senate which, if passed, could change these staffing ratios to stop the juggle and bring much needed support to students.
House Bill 1500 and Senate Bill 749 provide a lower staff to student ratio for: school counselors; school psychologists and school social workers. The Pennsylvania companion bills would set ratios that are consistent with the professional associations of psychologists, counselors and social workers as follows:
PSYCHOLOGISTS: 1: 500 students
COUNSELOR: 1:250 students
SOCIAL WORKER: 1: 250 students
Passing the legislation is step one and as it would likely not be attached to additional dollars the conversation would then have to focus on how schools would /could access the resource and how the support need is prioritized in relation to other needs in a school community.
Parents, grandparents, foster parents, caregivers and all those committed to better educational outcomes for children, we hope this information is helpful and promotes you to contact your representatives for action on measures that support students in schools.