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New grant program to help aspiring school counselors

Instructor Alejandra Chavez chooses between students vying for a chance to write n the board during a morning reading class during the Summer Adventures program at Marson Middle School, July 10, 2012.
Nicholas McVicker
/
KPBS
Students raise their hand in class at Marson Middle School, July 10, 2012.

The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental and emotional health of California’s school-age kids. Everyone from teachers in the classroom to the U.S. Surgeon General have spoken out about the impacts of school closures on the social and emotional well-being of children. The state Department of Education is launching a new program to offer $20,000 grants to 10,000 aspiring school counselors as part of the "Golden State Teacher Grant Program."

“Our students deserve and need to have more support and we’re grateful to have resources we can use to help them. We recognize it will take time to build out many of these resources. That’s why we’ve embarked on such a big number,” California State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond said at an event last Thursday announcing the new program.

The new state budget includes $184 million to pay for the teaching grants and other efforts to recruit more counselors and mental health clinicians.

Amy Bintliff, Ph.D., a professor and developmental psychologist who researches adolescent well-being at the University of California, San Diego, said the need for counselors in California is great.

"One in 300 California youth have lost a parent or direct caregiver to COVID-19. That's higher in California than nationally," Bintliff said. "So, we're a state that's full of grieving children. And schools don't necessarily have the resources at hand to work through all of that without having quality counselors."

Bintliff said in California lags behind other states in terms of the number of counselors per student. California has 527 students per one counselor, more than double the recommended rate of 250 students to one counselor, she said.

Students enrolled in a professional preparation program leading to a teaching credential or pupil personnel services credential on or after Jan. 1, 2020 are eligible for a grant. School counselor, social worker and psychologist candidates are eligible to apply.

"The program supports individuals who commit to serving at a priority school in California for four years, within eight years of completing a preparation program," Nicholas Filipas, a spokesperson for the California Department of Education said. "The application may include additional requirements for eligibility, which should be available in the coming months."

Bintliff joined Midday Edition on Tuesday to talk about the need for more school counselors in California.

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