A bipartisan bill that seeks to foster more professional development opportunities for school counselors was passed out of the House Education Committee with a favorable recommendation Thursday.
HB 198 – Strengthening College and Career Readiness is sponsored by Representative Patrice Arent (Democrat – Millcreek) and would create the Strengthening College and Career Readiness Program. Counselors who choose to enroll in the program would receive instruction aimed at enhancing their skill level to provide college and career counseling to students.
Arent explained to the commitee that school counselor master’s degree programs haven’t always offered in-depth training on college and career readiness. In fact, the Utah System of Higher Education only recently added such courses to their curriculum.
“As a parent and as someone who has been a volunteer in the schools, I have seen this. I’ve seen so many students not get quite on track and so many stories where they just weren’t told early enough that if they took this series of classes they would be better prepared to enter STEM careers, to get into colleges, to get scholarships,” said Arent.
The program would be designed by the State Office of Education, in collaboration with the Utah Board of Regents and education stakeholders, as well as business and industry partners. They will award grants, on a competitive basis, to school districts to help pay for the training. About 600 of the state’s 1,000 school counselors will be able to take part in the program.
According to the fiscal note, the total cost would be a one-time contribution of $440,000, which was whittled down from an original price tag of $2 million. Peter Cannon, a former member of the Davis School Board, feels that it would be money better spent elsewhere. “It would be deducted from the total funding for students. I ask you to refrain from this state-run grant program which focuses on only one possible need. If you leave this money in the WPU, [school] districts and charter schools will apply it to their most urgent needs to improve education.”
Holly Todd, president of the Utah School Counselors Association, believes that the program will help counselors better assist students in choosing college and career paths. “School counselors are hardworking professionals who want to provide the best for Utah students. Ultimately, we have the same goals as you of helping students be successful contributors to society. This certificate helps working school counselors to better identify their strengths and future plans.”
Arent ran a similar bill in 2012 that would have created a pilot program to provide training in college and career counseling to 18 graduate students studying high school counseling. The students would have then been placed in high schools to help students with the college admissions process. The bill passed out of the House Education Committee, but died in the House on a 31-42 vote.