This has been an exciting past couple of months with unprecedented action on behalf of school counselors. When we first undertook our "Bold Advocacy Move" we knew our goal and accepted that it would take time to achieve it. We thought we might begin the discussion about school counselor work and impact and perhaps develop a bill by next year. Instead, we worked with our Advocates, Carol Green and Ashley Stacell and had bills written and filed in both of Florida's legislative houses.
We had a very favorable hearing in the Senate, and our bill sponsor Sen. Nancy Detert was a great champion for us. The legislative hearing took place on February 6 and the bill was voted out of the Senate Education and Pre-K-12 Committee unanimously. The comments during the hearing were positive, in fact, committee member Sen. Bill Montford, himself a former Principal, told the committee of the ASCA standard and ratio and that he felt the bill did not go far enough. All were very supportive of our work and proposed legislation.
Rep. Janet Adkins, was also a wonderful bill sponsor in the House of Representatives; unfortunately, we ran out of time to get the bill heard in the House. When it became apparent that we would not get a committee hearing, we worked closely with Representative Adkins to find another vehicle to amend our bill onto, but there were no bills moving in the House that would be a good fit for our language.
In each house we worked with strong and committed sponsors. As of this past week, we reached the point in this legislation session where all committees have stopped meeting and unfortunately, we did not get a hearing in the House of Representatives; therefore, our bill cannot pass this year. However, we did make a lot of headway with the legislative actions that were taken.
On the heels of the end of the session, we are already focused on positioning for next year. We now have a bill drafted that is available to be filed as soon as the legislature begins it's planning sessions for the 2012/2013 year. It is our belief that our bill sponsors will be agreeable to refile and support our legislation. While our legislation was filed a year before we thought it might be, it was filed toward the end of the filing period this year which created a challenge for us to get through the entire process. Now we are poised to begin at the first available moment.
We have the next several months to develop our plans for next year, engage with policy makers around the state for support, and to work with Florida's school counselors to become advocates to local legislators and policy makers. We will be providing talking points and pointers on how to educate others about the need for the reforms in school counseling that our proposed legislation will bring. Florida students will benefit when each has access to quality, accountable, effective school counseling programs and professional school counselors to develop and implement these programs. We will need every school counselor in Florida to join us and stand up for student success by standing up for the profession .
Christopher B. Smith
Florida School Counselor Association