On July 14th The House Appropriations Committee approved the draft fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill. The legislation includes funding for programs within the Department of Labor, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, and other related agencies.
Within the funding bill is the Student Support and Academic Achievement State Grants Program which includes the school counseling program. $1 billion dollars in funding for the grant program was authorized to provide flexible funds to states and school districts to expand access to a well-rounded education for the nation’s children, improve school conditions, and the creation or expansion of school counseling programs across the country. Included in the bill is additional report language about the importance of school counselors:
“School Counselors.-The Committee recognizes that school-employed counseling professionals play a critical role in addressing barriers to learning and promoting academic success. These professionals guide students through academic, social, emotional and behavioral challenges, as well as the college admission process and career development, preparing them for fulfilling lives as responsible members of their communities. School counseling programs help students make individual choices geared to their unique abilities, interests and goals. The most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that the current school counselor-to-student ratio is now 1:491, the highest it has been since 1999 even though this kind of guidance is in demand now more than ever. The Committee notes that supporting school counselors is an allowable use of SSAE funds and encourages States and school districts to support school counseling programs.”
Because of Congressional efforts, school based mental health services will be more accessible to students; especially those that find themselves in disadvantaged or impoverished circumstances, who may not ordinarily have access to counseling services. The American Counseling Association is very grateful to the House Appropriations Committee and everyone who fought to keep the school counseling program alive.