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Counselor Forum Focuses On Coping With Tough Times

— State budget cuts have brought changes to schools beyond teacher layoffs: School counselors met at the University of San Diego (USD) today to talk about working with fewer resources.

Peter Schrag, a former Sacramento Bee editor and author of several books about California history and politics, told forum attendees that the legislature’s budget cutting and direction to schools on how to use their reduced resources left them facing “impossible quandaries.”

State money once reserved for guidance is now part of district general funds. That change has led districts across the state to cut programs, assign counselors to multiple schools and take other steps to stretch resources.

California's student to counselor ratio hovers around 950 to 1, according to Frank Kemerer, a professor at USD. He said the national average is closer to 470 to 1.

“It’s going to take us at least a decade to sort all of this out and that’s almost a lost decade of educational support for millions of California children and youth,” said Dr. Lonnie Rowell, the forum's organizer.

Rowell said studies show guidance counselors contribute significantly to creating healthy learning environments by preventing bullying and working with disruptive students.

“It’s easier to see larger class sizes or it’s easier to see the loss of athletics or the loss of music and art, It’s much harder to see those kinds of contributions that a professional school counselor makes,” he said.

This was USD’s 13th annual counseling forum - and its last. The center sponsoring the event will be cut at the end of the year because of the university’s own budget concerns.

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