One of the primary recommendations of the House Select Committee on School Safety and the Governor’s Student Safety Workgroup was to reduce the ratio of counselors to students in Virginia K-12 schools. The Virginia Board of Education and the American School Counseling Association recommend a ratio of 1 counselor for every 250 students. The Governor proposed an additional $36 million in General Funds in FY 2020 to cover the State share of an initial partial reduction in the ratio with the intent to get to the recommended ratio over a multiyear phase-in. Any school division that currently does not staff at these ratios would need to hire additional school counselors to meet the new mandated ratios would still need to provide the local share.
HB 2053 (McQuinn) and SB 1406 (Dance) were introduced to authorize this, but have been amended to a more limited reduction of the following: the elementary school ratio would go from 1:500 to 1:375, Middle School from 1:400 to 1:325, and High School from 1:350 to 1:300. Both bills passed their respective chambers and will likely be referred to the Education Committees. Notably, the Senate version of the bill has a financial enactment clause.
The current House version of the proposed budget matches the Governor’s proposed ratio reduction and provides $36 million in funding. The current Senate version has a committee approved amendment (Item 136 #2) to provide only $10 million in funding, which would cover the state share of the following ratios: the elementary school ratio would go from 1:500 to 1:460, Middle School from 1:400 to 1:375, and High School from 1:350 to 1:330.
VACo Contact: Jeremy Bennett