December 2017

From the Chair: Advocacy Strength in Numbers

By Beth Jenkins
As a result of the Florida School Counselor Association’s legislative platform and advocacy, the state Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) completed a study in 2014-2015. The OPPAGA Report found schools with no assigned counselors at the elementary, middle and even high school levels. The OPPAGA survey of more than half of Florida’s school counselors showed that a majority report spending too much time on non-counseling duties such as testing. Further, two thirds of the school counselors surveyed reported that non-counseling duties negatively affect their ability to serve students. School counselors are often willing to advocate for the needs of any student but may not be as prepared to advocate for themselves or their profession. As school counselors, we must work together to advocate for our role as school counselors at the local and district levels and for our profession at the state level.

Locally, be a voice for your critical work with students. Introduce yourself to students, parents and staff each year and remind them of your role using a newsletter, blog or brochure. The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has resources to use to educate school staff and district administrators on the role of a school counselor. FSCA has also posted an Advocacy Presentation that will help guide you through discussions about why school counselors are important to the overall well-being of students.

At the district level, be involved in trainings and opportunities to share your program and grow with other school counselors. Are you involved with the area FSCA chapter? Do you support National School Counseling Week in your district? How can you make our work known to district representatives? Running a data-driven, accountable school counseling program and sharing the results of the impact on student achievement is an incredible way to advocate.

At the state level, do you participate in the annual Day on the Hill in support of school counseling? If you cannot join us in Tallahassee, check our advocacy page for help in connecting with your representatives in the Senate and the House. Make an appointment to sit with these individuals to share information on the role of a school counselor and the work that you do for students and families. Letters, calls and emails to state representatives are also helpful. See our tips on Ways to Communicate with Legislators for more insights.

Florida Department of Education data from 2016 shows our student-to-school-counselor ratio at 485:1 (FLDOE). As we advocate for our work and spend more time in direct support of students, we rely on a collective voice to support our needs as professionals. You are a member of this collective voice because of your membership in our state school counseling association. I challenge you to help recruit more school counselors to join FSCA so that we can continue to strengthen our voice within our state.
 
Contact Beth Jenkins, FSCA Executive Board chair, at chair@fla-schoolcounselor.org