The Unified Policy Agenda for the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Virginia includes policy priorities in education, child welfare, health, mental health, and prevention. On Thursday, December 13th Governor Northam gave a preview of his budget proposal that included our education priorities from the Unified Agenda.
The Governor announced that he would include $36 million in his budget for additional school counselor positions. These counselor positions are one of the student support staff positions also including social workers, psychologists, and nurses that the Board of Education has prioritized to lower the ratio of support staff to students. Governor Northam’s proposal includes funding for the first third of all of the additional counselor positions needed to bring the staff to student ratio to the recommended level of 1 to 250 students.
The additional counselors are needed to ensure that counselors can develop trusting relationships with their students and that they can help identify any additional mental health or social supports that students need. These positions also help to implement school-wide trauma-informed interventions to improve school climate and focus on trauma-informed practice in the classroom.
Brandy Smith, a school counselor from Botetourt County and member of the Virginia School Counselor Alliance shared with us the important role of counselors. Brandy said,“school counselors are often assigned many administrative tasks that take them away from providing direct services to students. Many Virginia counselors manage extensive testing, attendance, and even remediation. School counselors are in a unique position to address trauma and mental health with students in their natural setting; however, these extraneous duties create missed opportunities to put students’ needs first.”
The Governor also announced support for another priority from the Unified Policy Agenda from the Campaign for a Trauma-Informed Virginia, additional funding to train and support School Resources Officers. The Governor proposed additional funding for the Center on School and Campus Safety for additional security positions, training for school personnel, and the continuation of the school-climate survey.
The Governor will officially release his budget on Tuesday, December 18th when more details will be available. The legislature will consider these proposals, along with additional budget amendments and legislation carried by the House and Senate. Sign up to receive weekly emails from Voices to track these issues during the General Assembly Session.
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