Students returning to school this year will return to the third worst ratio of students to support staff.
There will only be one guidance counselor for every 743 students in Minnesota, reports KARE 11. This is the third worst ratio in the nation and nearly three times the one counselor to 250 students that the American School Counselor Association recommends.
The legislature approved a $12.1 million grant program to address this problem in May, reports MPR. The program is brand new however, and schools have little opportunity to sign up or see the program have any effect. It is a six year program, where the state pays 50 percent of the new staff’s salary for the first four years, and 25 percent for the final two years. The grants can cover counselors, social workers, drug addiction counselors, nurses, or psychologists.
Sen. Susan Kent (DFL-Woodbury) was the chief champion of the program for four years before finally seeing her project included in this year’s supplemental budget. She initially targeted $95 million, but through compromise with the Republican held house, eventually saw the program funded at the $12.1 million mark, reports MPR.
Kent told KARE 11 that since the grant program is new the legislature is still waiting to see how many schools sign up.
As a percentage of education dollars spent, no state spent less on non-classroom staff than Minnesota did. The 2.6 percent mark is lowest in the nation, where Minnesota has ranked for the better part of a decade, according to MPR. MPR identifies this lack of support staff as an especially big problem for minority students and their chances of graduating from high school.
While Kent’s program continues to phase in, school districts such as Burnsville, Eagan, and Savage will continue their practice of using combined positions for support staff, according to KARE 11.