Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) has made mental health a priority and his bill, HB 264: Elementary School Counselor Program, would allow school districts to apply for grants to provide targeted mental health support in Utah elementary schools.
HB 264 just passed the House Education Committee. This bill couldn’t have better timing for Title 1 schools, which will experience average cuts of $40K each due to stopgap measures in the federal government (meaning most will to have to let go of their existing counselors). Right now during National School Counselor Week is a great time to e-mail your House Representative about your support for this measure!
Studies compiled by the American Counseling Association show that when an elementary school has a counseling program:
— Students have better outcomes on state and national assessments
— Students show improved cognitive, social, and self management skills
— Schools can close achievement gaps
— Schools can reduce chronic absenteeism
— School can reduce classroom disturbances and provide all students with quality instruction
Some legislators are worried about the liability of school counselors, but this concern is based in an outdated idea about the role of guidance counselors in secondary education. Elementary school counselors are already housed in school districts across Utah and have shown proven benefits without significant liability debates taking place.