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GSCA Advocacy Update

April 2, 2013

After a very long day and much debate, HB 283 was passed at 11:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 28. Our lobbyist, Matthew Gambill, was at the Capitol for the entire legislative session and monitored the progress of this bill as well as our House and Senate resolutions. The decision regarding HB 283 came down to the final moments of the legislative session, which ended at midnight on the 28th. Matthew made numerous contacts regarding the bill throughout the session as well as that evening, and Gail Smith and I went to the Capitol to show GSCA's support during the final hours before the bill was passed. We were there for the vote, which was truly exciting! Once the governor signs off on HB 283, which we do not anticipate as being a problem, the new counselor: student ratios will go into effect for 2013-2014. It will be in the governor's budget and it will be in law!
With the passage of HB 283, we are positioned to receive the largest increase in funding for school counselors that we have had in many years and we will see a reduction in school counselor: student ratios over a three year period. We have also succeeded in updating the law so that the wording "school counselor" will replace "guidance counselor." With the passage of our urging resolutions (HR 552 and SR 617), we have raised the level of conversation and awareness of the need for comprehensive school counseling programs. Finally, HR 414, sponsored by Representative Joyce Chandler, recognized national school counseling week and GSCA. GSCA and school counseling have had a definite presence at this legislative session.

You will hear more in the next few months about how to utilize the progress made at the legislative level locally, and I will provide the names and contact information of those we need to thank for their support. In the meantime, take a moment to celebrate. It is a good day to be a school counselor in Georgia!

Julie Hartline
GSCA Advocacy Chair

 


 

GSCA Advocacy Update

March 7, 2013

Advocacy Update:

1. Counselor: Student Ratios
The Education Commission's recommendations for the governor's budget regarding the reduction in counselor: student ratios were included in House Bill 283, sponsored by the House Education Committee. HB 283 was passed by a vote of 169 to 1 in the House of Representatives on Thursday, February 28. GSCA's lobbyist Matthew Gambill monitored the movement of the bill and will continue to do so as it moves through the Senate. Matthew was able to get the language changed in the bill from "guidance counselor" to "school counselor" before it was released.

2. Comprehensive School Counseling Program Bill
Matthew met with numerous representatives regarding GSCA's proposed bill on comprehensive school counseling programs. While all representatives were supportive of the work of the school counselor, GSCA's bill was seen to be in conflict with legislation from the House Education Committee to allow more flexibility at the local schools. Representative Brooks Coleman, the chair of the House Education Committee, recommended an "Urging Resolution" that would support the appropriate use of school counselors. He encouraged GSCA to work with the DOE and to use this resolution to bring about the changes we are seeking. The urging resolution, HR552, was introduced by Representative Joyce Chandler and was signed by several representatives. Matthew is monitoring the status of the resolution as well.

Matthew will arrange a follow-up meeting with the DOE to discuss school counseling in the state and next steps for the implementation of comprehensive programs via the DOE.

3. Other Advocacy Efforts
Mark Ellis arranged for Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle to sign a commendation for National School Counseling Week.

Representative Joyce Chandler introduced an inviting resolution on behalf of school counselors on Thursday, February 28. GSCA President Barbara Strickland spoke briefly about the role and impact of school counselors. Several GSCA members accompanied Barbara to the podium (Shellie Caplinger, Advocacy Co-Chair; Julie Hartline, Advocacy Chair; Gail M. Smith, Past President; Robin Zorn, GSCA School Counselor of the Year). Additional GSCA members, along with Myrel Seigler from the DOE, were seated in the balcony and were recognized by Representative Chandler.

Julie Hartline
GSCA Advocacy Chair

 


 

GSCA Legsilative Update

February 1, 2013

GSCA hired Matthew Gambill of Capitol Hill Strategies as our lobbyist in the fall of 2012. As recommendations for lower counselor:student ratios and comprehensive school counseling programs statewide were made by the Education Finance Commission, it became increasingly important for GSCA to have someone to serve as our eyes and ears in the political arena. Matthew has been monitoring the progress and political climate surrounding these issues prior to and during the legislative session.

As we move forward, it may be necessary to have GSCA members contact legislators to request support for these initiatives. We will reach out to members when contact needs to be made. See below for an update from Matthew on these initiatives.

Julie Hartline, GSCA Advocacy Chair

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM MATTHEW:

Monday, January 14th marked the first day of the 2013 Georgia General Assembly. With 2012 being an election year, the first order of business for the General Assembly was the swearing in of its membership, assigning members to committees, and giving out office assignments. Legislators used four of their allotted forty days to perform these tasks and manage other housekeeping duties. The General Assembly was in recess the next week to hold budget hearings and reconvened on Monday, January 28th.

Governor Deal released his budget recommendation on Thursday, January 17 during his State of the State address. I am pleased to report that it appears, at first glance, to include an additional $898,952 appropriated in the FY14 budget for School Counselors under the QBE formula. The budget language says, "Adjust funds for School Counselors ($898,952), ...based on recommendations by the State Education Finance Study Commission."

The week of January 28th proved to be the first "real" week of session and we are finally starting to see things move. On January 29th, the Education Committees of the House and Senate held their first meetings of the year. This meeting was actually a joint meeting where Dr. John Barge presented an update from GaDOE. There have been some changes in the Senate Leadership, particularly the Education committee chairs. Senator Lindsey Tippens replaced Senator Fran Millar as the chairman and Senator John Wilkinson is serving as the new vice chair.

At the conclusion of the Education Committee meeting, I spoke with Representative Mike Dudgeon who stated that he will introduce a bill by the first of February that will be referred to as the "Title 20 Cleanup Bill." It will contain several Title 20 changes; Title 20 is the section of Georgia law pertaining to Education. Also, included in this bill will be the recommendations of the Education Finance Commission which include the ratio change for School Counselors. This is very encouraging news and I will send GSCA a copy of the bill as soon as I have it.

With proposed legislation regarding the ratios, I will begin working on the Comprehensive School Counseling Bill as a separate piece of legislation. I have had several conversations with representatives who are interested in assisting GSCA with this effort. I will continue to work with representatives to discuss next steps and have GSCA's language drawn up in official bill format.

 


 

GSCA Legislative Update

June 2012

First, thank you to everyone who replied to the survey regarding ratios. Based on the replies of 525 counselors, the average ratios are 1:641 in elementary (264 respondents), 1:550 in middle (119 respondents), and 1:512 in high school (142 respondents).

Presently, state allotments are 1:462 in elementary school, 1:624 in middle school, and 1:400 in high school. However, what many people do not realize is that current ratio funding does not include special populations such as students with disabilities (SWDs), English language learners (ELLs), remedial students, and gifted students so counselors often serve more students than the state ratios unless they are supplemented by their districts.

As a result of the presentation and recommendations made by GSCA at the April 30 Student Support Services sub-committee, a follow-up meeting was held on Monday, June 4 to make final recommendations regarding school counselors. As a result of our advocacy efforts, the sub-committee is recommending the following changes to the full committee.

1. A reduction of counselor:student ratios to 1:450 for all grade levels, to be phased in over a 3 year period to include:
·a reduction of ratios to 1:450 for all grade levels beginning in 2014, which will be a tremendous decrease initially for middle school;
·the inclusion of SWDs and ELLs in the 1:450 ratios in 2015 (16.1 million expenditure); and
·the inclusion of remedial and gifted students along with SWDs and ELLs in the 1:450 ratios in 2016 (14.4 million expenditure).

2. The inclusion of school counselors in the definition of direct instruction, which would allow us to purchase technology for use with students

3. Access and training for school counselors on the statewide data system

4. A further review of comprehensive school counseling programs to determine if these can be implemented statewide

These changes will mean a 30.5 million dollar investment in school counselors for the state. This amount is greater than any funding that has been approved for any other group by the Student Support Services sub-committee. To quote the subcommittee chairperson, "Counselors are a priority for all."

This is definitely a step in the right direction. We spoke and they listened! It is a good day to be a school counselor in the state of Georgia! Thanks for all your support.

Julie Hartline, GSCA Advocacy Chair, &
Gail M. Smith, GSCA President

 


 

GSCA and Georgia Students Need Your Help!

May 2012

On Monday, April 30, Georgia School Counselor Association presented before an FTE sub-committee regarding counselor:student ratios and the role of the school counselor in Georgia. As a result, the chairman of the sub-committee is considering a number of recommendations that may impact school counselors in Georgia, including the possibility of reducing ratios to 1:400 at all grade levels. The recommendations are being researched and will be discussed in a follow up meeting on June 4 so we need your help to provide information to these decision makers. In an effort to do so, we need for GSCA members to complete the following short, three question survey. This should take no more than five minutes of your time and can make a huge difference in the lives of our students. Thanks for your support.

Julie Hartline, GSCA Advocacy Chair, &
Gail M. Smith, GSCA President

 


 

GSCA Legislative Action

April 2012

On Monday, April 30 at 9:00 a.m., Georgia School Counselors Association will speak before the FTE sub-committee meeting about school counselor ratios and the role of the school counselor. We are recommending that counselor/student ratios be lowered in Georgia. If you are able to take off the morning of April 30, the meeting will be held at 18 Capitol Square, Room 415 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, Atlanta, GA 30334 from 9 - 12:30. Please be advised that space is limited in the meeting room.

Julie Hartline, GSCA Advocacy Chair, &
Gail M. Smith, GSCA President

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