IF YOUR TIME IS SHORT
Demand for student mental health services has grown as educators grapple with the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on kids.
Democratic Arizona State Superintendent incumbent Kathy Hoffman said that even before the pandemic, she pressed to place additional counselors in Arizona schools.
“Since 2019, I’ve successfully lobbied for the funds to add hundreds of school counselors, lowering our student to school counselor ratio by 20%,” Hoffman tweeted July 28.
Did Hoffman raise the number of counselors, and was she the one who pushed for the increase? The record says she did.
Hoffman took office in 2019. In the 2018-19 school year, Arizona had 1,262 counselors. The next year, that rose to 1,359 counselors. By 2021, Arizona had 1,552 counselors. This is an increase of 290 counselors in three years.
According to the American School Counselors Association, the student-counselor ratio improved from 905 students per counselor in 2018-19 to 716 students per counselor in 2020-21. That’s an improvement of 21%.
Richie Taylor, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, pointed to Hoffman’s 2019 State of Education speech as proof that she called for additional funding for counselors.
“In an era of ballooning classroom sizes, teachers feel unequipped to manage a class of 30 children while also finding the time to provide individualized attention to their students, especially those that are facing depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts,” Hoffman said in 2019. “That’s why I am fully supportive of any plan to increase the presence of counselors, social workers, and school psychologists in our schools.”
Taylor said hiring more counselors was a top priority and the department’s legislative staff worked with the lawmakers to move that forward.
Federal COVID relief dollars made staff increases possible. In 2021, using a mix of federal and state money, Hoffman allocated $21.3 million for schools to hire counselors and social workers under the state’s School Safety Grant program.
The challenge ahead is the relief funds are temporary. Hoffman is urging lawmakers to fund the School Safety Grant program permanently.
Hoffman said, “Since 2019, I’ve successfully lobbied for the funds to add hundreds of school counselors, lowering our student to school counselor ratio by 20%.”
The numbers back her up. The state hired nearly 300 counselors in the past three years, and the student to counselor ratio improved by about 20%. Hoffman began lobbying for more counselors before the COVID-19 pandemic.
We rate this claim True.