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Counseling Program Stymied by Lack Of Staff and Funds

Funding problems and a shortage of qualified job candidates may hamper plans in Tennessee to assign guidance counselors to elementary schools.

The state legislature in June overrode a gubernatorial veto and passed a bill requiring one guidance counselor for every 500 students in grades 1 and 2, or at least one counselor per county.

According to state calculations, some 274 counselors would be needed for this school year.

But the $4 million available for the program is at least $1.4 million short of the amount required to hire those counselors, according to Commissioner of Education Robert L. McElrath, who also suggested that the state has other education priorities.

Moreover, funds will not be available until Nov. 1 when the state's audit of tax receipts is completed--two months after school begins.

Most qualified counselors already have accepted other jobs for the fall, said Betty C. Nixon, a research associate for the state board of education.

The commissioner said he doubts there are more than 70 people in the state who are both qualified and available to fill the positions.

Some 15 to 20 percent of the state's elementary schools now provide counseling services.

California's Senator Plans 'C-Average' Extracurricular Bill

All California public-school students would have to maintain a C average to participate in any extracurricular activity under legislation to be proposed by state Senator Joseph B. Montoya.

Senator Montoya, who plans to introduce his bill in January, favors the measure because "schools today are losing sight of their main mission, which is to educate," according to Kathy Somerton, a consultant to the senator.

Approximately 60 percent of the state's more than 800 districts currently require students to maintain a C average to participate in extracurricular activities, she noted.

School officials opposed to the plan argue both that it infringes on local control and that sports and other extracurricular activities represent some students' only chance for success in school, Ms. Somerton said.

Bill Honig, the state's superintendent of public instruction, has in the past favored leaving minimum-standards issues in the hands of the districts, according to Susan Lange, a department spokesman. She said, however, that the superintendent has reserved judgment on Senator Montoya's measure until he sees the text of the bill.

A similar bill introduced two years ago by Senator John Seymour failed after it was opposed by the California Interscholastic Foundation, the state PTA, the school-boards association, and teachers' groups, according to Ms. Somerton.

State Board Rejects Tougher Standards For Graduation

The Arizona Board of Education has narrowly rejected a variety of proposals offered by a statewide task force of educators to stiffen high-school graduation requirements.

According to Joyce Goluvic, a spokesman for the board, the panel voted 5 to 4 against the proposals late last month following complaints that the changes would be too costly and would unnecessarily dilute the authority of local school officials.

Ms. Goluvic said the most significant proposal would have increased the minimum number of Carnegie units necessary for graduation from 20 to 22 effective with the class of 1989. It also would have raised the social-studies requirement from two and a half units to three units and the mathematics and science requirement from four units to five units. And it would have specified that students complete two units in the fine arts, vocational education, or a foreign language.

The task force had also recommended that high-school students be required to pass state board-approved achievement tests in reading, language, and math at the 12th-grade level or higher as a prerequisite for graduation. The state's existing exit-test policy requires only that students score at the 9th-grade level on a state-approved reading exam.

Ms. Goluvic said that following the defeat of the task force's proposals, the board voted to establish an advisory committee composed of proponents and opponents of the recommendations and ordered it to determine whether some common ground could be reached. The committee is to report back to the board by January.

Vol. 05, Issue 02, Page 2

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