Federal Support Sought for School Counseling
Washington--Despite evidence that counseling reduces vandalism and disciplinary problems, many students and families have no access to guidance services in their elementary and secondary schools, witnesses testified at a hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Education, the Arts, and the Humanities last week.
The hearing centered on legislative proposals to increase federal funding for school counseling.
Representatives of the American Personnel and Guidance Association, which includes 13 organizations concerned with counseling activities--including those in schools and colleges--testified in support of two bills that would require federal vocational-education and job-training programs to place greater em-phasis on career counseling for students.
Federal support for school counseling activities began in 1958, with the passage of the National Defense Education Act, witnesses pointed out. Several subsequent education programs, including vocational education, education for the handicapped, and the Title I program for disadvantaged students, also have included funds for counseling programs.
But in spite of that support, "there has not been continuity in a centralized guidance and counseling unit in the [Education Department] to integrate the expectations for guidance and counseling which appear across legislative pieces into a coherent fabric" since the early 1960's, said Edwin L. Herr, chairman of the de-partment of counselor education at Pennsylvania State University.
"Because of the regional diversity in size, resources, and other forms of support, ... talking about a typical school counselor or guidance and counseling program in action is difficult," he said. "In some instances, there is only one school counselor in town; he or she may move among [school] buildings and deal with a range of student, teacher, and parent problems," he continued.
Although the 1971 White House Conference on Youth recommended a school counselor-to-student ratio of 50 to one, the current average in secondary schools throughout the country is approximately 425 students to one counselor, Mr. Herr said. In elementary schools, one counselor serves approximately six schools, on the average, he said.
"Such averages obviously mean that many students and families in the United States have no access to guidance services in the elementary or the secondary schools," in spite of studies that show counseling activities can help reduce vandalism and discipline problems, Mr. Herr said.
Norman C. Gysbers, a professor of education at the University of Missouri, said an increased federal role in school counseling should include greater financial support to enable schools to hire more counselors, increased emphasis on career counseling for "special-needs populations," and a network providing counselors with up-to-date information on labor-market needs.
Such activities may be allowed if the Congress passes the two bills discussed at the hearing.
The committee chairman, Senator Robert T. Stafford, Republican of Vermont--the only committee member in attendance--said he intended to introduce an amendment to a job-training bill that is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources.
The amendment to the bill, which would replace the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act passed during the Nixon Administration, would allow states and localities to fund career-guidance and counseling activities in conjunction with job-training programs. (See Education Week, April 28.)
A House bill, presented at the hearing by Representative William F. Goodling, Republican of Pennsyl-vania, would "clearly define" guidance and counseling as a component of federally funded vocational-edu-cation programs. The bill, HR 4974, which was introduced last November, would also increase from the current 4 percent to 6 percent the amount of vocational-education funds set aside for guidance activities.