Franken recognizes Minnesota’s need for school counselors


by John Fitzgerald | September 15, 2009 • On Tuesday, Minnesota Senator Al Franken co-sponsored legislation to train, place, and retain school counselors, school social workers, and school psychologists in school districts that need them.

Sen. Franken’s call echoes a report released two weeks ago by Minnesota 2020 and the Minnesota School Counselors Association, “Minnesota’s School Counseling Crunch,” that recognized Minnesota’s desperate need for school counselors and how this shortage is affecting our students.

Since 2000, Minnesota has ranked 49th out of 50 states in its student-to-school counselor ratio. While the recommended ratio is 250 students per counselor and the national average is 450 students per counselor, there are about 800 students per counselor in Minnesota. Every other state in the Union except California has a better ratio.

“Minnesota students deserve personal attention from school counselors,” Franken said. “On everything from choosing the right college to dealing with social issues affecting their performance, our kids need a professional to talk to within their school. This legislation will help to give them that opportunity.

“We should never be behind the rest of the country when it comes to providing for the well-being of our students. Minnesota students deserve better,” he said.

Social, emotional, and behavioral issues interfere with a child’s ability to succeed in school. Without adequately-staffed student support services, teachers have to deal with a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral issues on their own, which takes away from the time they can spend teaching and contributes to a poor work environment that leads to high teacher turnover.

The Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act (S.538) was introduced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.). The bill would provide competitive grants to boost attraction and retention, and also create a student loan forgiveness program for school counselors, social workers, and psychologists who work for five years in low-income school districts.