Legislation that will provide more professional development opportunities for school counselors cleared another hurdle Monday in its quest to become law.
HB 198 – Strengthening College and Career Readiness, sponsored by Representative Patrice Arent (Democrat – Millcreek), received unanimous approval from the Senate Education Committee, and now heads to the full Senate for debate.
The bill would create an online program to help train counselors to provide college and career counseling.
The Utah State Office of Education would team up with the Utah State Board of Regents, business and industry partners, as well as other stakeholders to help develop the program for working school counselors.
Grants will be awarded to school districts on a competitive basis to help pay for the training. Schools will be required to submit an action plan for implementation, and regular updates will be made to the Education Interim Committee.
The program, which would be optional, is expected to cost $400,000 and would allow about 600 counselors would be able to participate.
Arent pointed out that rural counselors will have an easier time participating since it is an online class. “It will give counselors the up to date skills they need to help students.”
Arent has been advocating for increased counselor training for several years.
Arent ran a similar bill in 2012, but it died in the House on a 31-42 vote.
Holly Todd, president of the Utah School Counselors Association, noted that few counselor programs offer college and career readiness training. “Just like math, science, or language arts teachers need professional development to teach their specialties, school counselors need additional, specific professional development in college and career readiness. In the past, the training has not included that. As of 2013, the Southern Region Educational Board found that only 5 of the 466 preservice programs offer college and career readiness as a required course. Only 40 more add it as an elective. So it is essential for our counselors to have this.”
Melissa Miller Kincart, assistant commissioner for outreach and access at the Utah System of Higher Education, said school counselors need to be more knowledgeable and skilled at helping students prepare for college. “This bill gives us the opportunity to build on some enhancements that we have done on our two preservice programs at Utah State [University] and the University of Utah.”
Kincart believes that HB 198 would provide a much-needed service. “We need more students to come to the Utah System of Higher Education and our other colleges and universities more ready to actually be there. We are excited about this bill, that it invests in professional development for school counselors, provides them the training and resources that they need, and also invests in the certification.”