The global pandemic has devastated much of the nation’s economy. Unemployment is at unthinkable levels and every sector has felt the impact of this crisis, from large corporations and nonprofits to small businesses and schools. One could debate who has been hit the hardest—hospitals, retail, tourism, education—but the fact remains that except for Amazon, Netflix, Zoom, Clorox, Kimberly-Clark, and a few other companies that stand to benefit, times are grim economically.
I am not a scientist, so I won’t pretend to make predictions about the longevity of this virus, potential for a vaccine, or likelihood for a resurgence. Nor am I an economist, so I will not weigh in on whether this is a recession or a depression, and I will refrain from speculating on the long-term fiscal impact. However, I am an educator who has worked with students and families through the 9/11 tragedy and the 2008 recession. I have also seen the great disparity of educational resources, and the inherent inequities, that hold back many in this country. What I know to be true is that no matter when our country opens up, or how fast we bounce back, we need to think about how we stimulate our economy and workforce from the ground up. Guess where that starts? School counselors.
Access to Counseling
School counselors are on the frontline of supporting our nation’s young people as they move through their educational journey, but access to these supports is wildly unjust and inequitable and this has serious implications on the availability of post-secondary planning. While the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a ratio of 250 students per counselor, according to Department of Education statistics, the national average is 430-to-1. Jill Cook, the assistant director of ASCA explains that encouragingly “the number of school counselors has been rising and the ratio of students per counselor is the lowest it has been in over 30 years.” She says that this is thanks in part to initiatives on the state level like Virginia’s goal to reduce the ratio to 250-to-1, Arizona’s legislation to hire additional counselors (reducing their worst in the nation ratio of 903-to-1), and the Colorado School Counselor Corps grant program. Cook worries, however, that school budgets will be slashed as a result of Covid-19 and that counselor resources will be lost at a time when they are more important than ever.