TALB Counselors Corner: School Counseling is Essential and Not a Luxury

by Kennedy Dixon, Counselor

School counseling is often perceived as a luxury rather than an essential service for student success. However, this perspective is narrow-minded, contradicts research and best practices, and fails to acknowledge the crucial role that school counselors play in supporting students’ academic, social, and emotional development, as well as their readiness for college/career and post-secondary options.

Research indicates that school counseling significantly impacts students’ overall well-being and academic achievement. As fellow educators, it is our shared responsibility to change this narrative and advocate for adequate school counseling services to ensure that every student has access to counseling support.

School districts statewide are following the recommendations of state and national agencies, university scholars, and other experts in the field of school counseling. They are reducing student-to-counselor ratios and implementing school counseling standards. In August 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the “Master Plan for Kids’ Mental Health” in California to address this crisis and facilitate children’s access to mental health and substance abuse services. Increasing the number of counselors in our schools is one of Governor Newsom’s priorities in achieving this ambitious goal. School counselors possess a unique ability to provide the necessary support to students due to their holistic, whole-child approach. However, we must address the current imbalances in student-to-counselor ratios and assigned responsibilities.

A first-class education system cannot exist without a first-class school counseling program. This requires professionally trained school counselors who implement comprehensive and evidence-based school counseling programs and curricula. Otherwise, our students will be at a severe disadvantage when transitioning from high school to postsecondary options, as many students from other districts will have had access to these supports.

The recommended student-to-counselor ratio is 250:1, while our elementary ratios are 704:1, K-8 ratios are 884:1, and middle school ratios are 727:1. The current practice of schools “buying” school counselor time one year and diverting the funds to other initiatives the next prevents consistency in student services and highlights the flaw in determining and prioritizing counseling services at the site level.

Together, we must make it abundantly clear that school counselors are not expendable; they are essential members of the educational team who are invaluable to the success and well-being of our students. Their support is vital to student success and should not be considered a luxury.

In solidarity,