WEATHER WATCH
Illinois bill aims to get more counselors into schools
Illinois Statehouse in Springfield (Jakob Emerson/WICS)

A newly filed House bill hopes to get more counselors into Illinois’ schools.

Right now, state law says that districts may employ enough counselors to meet the recommended ratio of 1 counselor for every 250 students.

The new bill would mandate a counselor for every 150 students, and counselors would be required to meet with their students every month.

In the 2019-2020 school year, the statewide ratio was 1 counselor for every 592 students, according to the Illinois School Counselor Association.

“If there was ever a year to have more mental health services available in schools, this is the year," Dr. Bill Moredock said.

WICS

Moredock is Principal of the Little Flowers Catholic School in Springfield and a practicing clinical psychologist. He says after the past two years of educating in a pandemic, Illinois’ students need more support.

“Our kids have lost educationally, they’ve lost socially, they’ve lost emotionally. And it’s made them vulnerable to mental health disorders," Moredock said.

For Greenview School District's Superintendent Ryan Heavner, he says he's in full support of the measure, but believes that some districts could use even more specialized support beyond what is proposed in the bill.

“When we talk about mental health with students, we really need to make sure that we do a good job meeting the needs of kids," Heavner said. "When you start saying you need somebody per 150 kids, you actually might have a greater need than that. And I think it’s really important that school districts keep an eye on what the needs of the community and the students are.”

Heavner adds that within the context of the state’s major education personnel shortage, it would be difficult to hire more counselors in his district to meet the proposal in the legislation.

Legislators are slated to make a return to Springfield in early January.

In a statement, Executive Director of the Illinois School Counselor Association, Vince Walsh-Rock, said:

"The need to provide appropriate levels of support for all students has never been greater. We are hearing from school counselors across the state about the increase in students needing emotional support. The Illinois School Counselor Association represents over 1200 school counselors in grades K-12 in Illinois. School counselors are trained in the American School Counselor Association national model that calls for school counselors to spend at least 80% of their time in direct service with students in classrooms, small groups, and in individual meetings. School counselors operate in 3 domains, which include academic planning, career/post-secondary planning, and personal counseling. The ASCA national model recommends a 250:1 school counselor to student ratio. In 2019-2020, the school counselor to student ratio in Illinois was 592:1. We hope to engage Rep. Cyril Nichols, sponsor of HB 4208 to advocate for an increase in school counselors with the funding to support such a mandate."

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