Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tight budgets threaten resource for Lee County schools

At the start of a school day, Janet Borchers is at the front of Spring Creek Elementary School greeting kids and parents.

On any given day, school counselor Borchers can be helping students deal with abuse, a death in the family, a parent’s arrest or simply arguments with classmates. She’s their go-to resource at the Bonita Springs school. But she has 700 students to keep track of, a workload that educators say is too large. It’s a problem popping up in many areas of the state, but is particularly bad in Southwest Florida.

Lee County ranks 64th out of 67 school districts in counselor-to-student ratio, according to the state Department of Education. The department, the American School Counselor Association and the Florida School Counselor Association all recommend that school districts maintain a 1-to-250 counselor to student ratio at every level.

The problem has been getting worse as budgets tighten, mandates increase and school principals have to make hard choices about what positions to keep. Often they cut counselor positions in favor of instructional positions.

In Lee, the average ratio for elementary schools is 1-to-923, for middle schools it’s 1-to-565 and 1-to-532 for high schools.

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