Legislator says proposal to increase school counselors, psychologists would have big impact

State Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said Friday a portion of Gov. Sam Brownback’s school proposal that has received little attention would have a huge positive impact if implemented.

Jennings pointed to Brownback’s call that the state increase the number of school counselors and school psychologists by 150 positions each year for the next five years, for a total of 750 more positions. Brownback made the statement during the State of the State address in which he also called for a $600 million school funding increase over five years.

Jennings, chairman of the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, said having more school employees tending to the social, emotional and mental health needs of students “can’t help but increase the positive outcomes of public education.”

He said increasing the number of school counselors and psychologists will go a long way toward helping children who are struggling in school because of mental health or abuse issues. The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled the school funding system is neither adequate nor equitable and has often cited the number of students not making the grade.

Jennings and State Board of Education Vice Chair Kathy Busch spoke about school mental health issues during the KASB/USA-Kansas Advocacy in Action conference.

Busch is chair of the Kansas School Mental Health Advisory Council and Jennings is a member of that panel. The council is working on recommendations for training of teachers and other school employees to detect students who are being sexually abused and other issues.

In addition to increasing the number of school psychologists and counselors, Busch said it is important to develop strategies in which all school employees are involved in “interconnected systems” to address mental health issues.

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