Dear friends and neighbors:

Last year I sponsored legislation to assure students access to school counselors. Though the bill passed the Senate, it died in the House. Since then, the need for access has not gone away, it has only increased—and not just for career guidance but to address trauma and mental health during these stressful times.

That’s why I’m sponsoring Senate Bill 5030 again this year and was pleased to see it pass out of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee last month. To make up for shortages in staffing, many schools are assigning additional responsibilities to counselors that limit their availability. These are people with master’s degrees who are trained to change our kids’ lives, and yet they’re being tapped to pull recess duty or proctor tests or do whatever’s needed in the course of the day. My bill requires schools to allow counselors to focus at least 80 percent of their work week on their primary duties, which is to improve our kids’ lives for the better, while still giving administrators the flexibility to assign up to 20 percent of a counselor’s work week to address other school needs.

I understand that our schools are doing their best to stretch limited resources, and I know they need to make tough choices, but it can’t be at the expense of our students. If our schools are short on support staff, then we need to find a way to get them the money to hire the staff they need. The answer is not to divert counselors or other key staff from their jobs but to make sure our schools are sufficiently funded.

If emails aren’t your thing — and I’m learning that’s true of more and more people in this digital age — you can find brief video updates on my Facebook page and on my Senate webpage each week. I’m no Stephen Colbert, but I think I do OK—or at least my wife seems to think so. Either that or she waits until she’s in another room before she starts giggling.

Best regards,