KASB Daily Education Roundup, Thur. Feb. 6

Legislators on Thursday heard about the shortage of school counselors, social workers and psychologists amid a worsening mental health problem among students.

Meanwhile, a committee forwarded two education-related bills to the full House. In addition, Sen. Kevin Braun, R-Kansas City, introduced a bill he said would tie at-risk funding to grade performance, and Sen. Molly Baumgardner, R-Louisburg, introduced a bill she said would require the state to track academic progress of kids in the foster care system. Baumgardner is chair of Senate Education Committee and Braun is a member of that committee.

On the issue of student mental health, suicide has become the second leading cause of death among Kansas youth and the suicide rate for children 10-14 has tripled in recent years.

Officials said schools are having trouble hiring more counselors, social workers and school psychologists. They said part of the reason for the shortage is that the required level of training and cost is prohibitive because starting salaries are so low.

The counselor to student ratio in Kansas is one for every 450 students, while the recommended level is one for every 250 students. The issue affects the entire classroom as teachers try to balance education needs with handling student trauma.

State officials say that over the past several years, Kansas has increased the number of social workers in schools by 15 percent and counselors, 11 percent.

In other business Thursday:

— The House Education Committee approved HB 2487, would change references from “emotional disturbance” to “emotional disability” in the law regarding individuals with disabilities, and HB 2488, which would allow schools to keep extra treatments for allergies and asthma on hand for emergencies. The measure also exempts physicians, pharmacists and school staff from civil liability in good faith efforts. KASB supports HB 2488 and here is our testimony.

— The Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee considered SB 299, which would require school board candidates in districts where regular enrollment exceeds 5,000 pupils to submit campaign finance information before the election. The bill would apply to community college districts too.

— The House K-12 Education Committee was briefed on the Kansas Blue Ribbon Task Force on Bullying report that can be found here.

A video recap of the day’s events can be seen here on the KASB Facebook page.

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