Today, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced $21.3 million dollars to supplement the School Safety Grant Program. As passed by the legislature and implemented by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) the School Safety Grant program brought more than 260 social and emotional support professionals to our schools – seeking to reduce our state’s astronomical student-to-school-counselor ratio, the highest in the nation. Despite these gains, demand outstripped program funds – leaving many schools on the waitlist.
To fill the gaps left by the legislature, ADE will allocate a portion of its federal recovery dollars to fully fund the counselor and social worker waitlists – bringing opportunities for 71 school counselor and 69 school social worker positions to schools for two years. Grantees represent communities from across 10 counties – that have been waiting for nearly two years to receive funding for these positions.
“Over the last year, the social and emotional needs of our students have risen to the forefront of my conversations with teachers, parents and even lawmakers. After a genuinely traumatic year, I’ve heard clearly that the social-emotional services offered by our public schools are critical to student wellbeing,” said Superintendent Hoffman. “By supplementing the School Safety Grant Program with federal relief funds, we are providing real solutions and resources that will have a direct impact on school safety, the social-emotional well-being of our students, and the overall health of our communities.”
“This pandemic has elevated the awareness and necessity of addressing our students’ social and emotional needs,” said Sarah Skemp, Chair of the Arizona School Counselor Association. “Now more than ever, it is vital that ALL students in Arizona have access to a school counselor. The addition of these school counselors across our state allows for more students to receive more services. It is another step in the right direction that benefits all students and families in Arizona, reducing the student to school counselor ratio, which is the highest in the country. The Arizona School Counselors Association is grateful to Superintendent Hoffman and ADE for providing full funding for all these requested positions.”
“Now, more than ever, is when my fellow Arizona students need support that extends beyond just teachers, friends, and family. And, while I strongly believe that learning about wellness should be an important part of every student’s education, it’s not enough,” said Claire Novak, and Senior at the Arizona School for the Arts. “Students and teachers also need the support of professionals such as counselors and social workers. These newly funded resources for schools are going to make a huge difference for so many students across the state.”
This investment, along with the millions of federal recovery dollars ADE has already committed, will provide resources our students will need beyond the crisis of the pandemic. However, even with this new infusion of school counselors and social workers, Arizona’s student to counselor ratio far exceeds the recommended standard. More needs to be done to provide these important supports to Arizona students. Additional state support for social and emotional positions like counselors and social workers is critical to student mental health and opportunity.