State Funding Update
Dear GSCA Members
Earlier this year, the Georgia School Counselor Association was excited to learn that the House version of the FY 2021 budget included $24.8 million to fully fund the school counselor ratios for all student segments at 1:450. The additional funding would add approximately 500 school counselors statewide. The budget, including this addition, was with the Senate for consideration when Governor Kemp mandated shelter in place, and the Georgia General Assembly’s legislative session was temporarily suspended.
As you know, the closure of businesses during the shelter in place has had a dire impact on Georgia’s economy and, therefore, State tax collections. When the General Assembly re-convened on June 15, legislators had to make tough decisions about budget cuts across all state departments and agencies. Unfortunately, the final budget did not include the proposed new funding for school counselors.
Because the proposed new funding was to add counselor positions, existing school counselor positions are not directly impacted by its exclusion in the final budget. School counselors are funded out of the QBE Program, and since the QBE Program was subject to a 10% overall cut, each school district will have to decide how their reductions are managed. It is believed that in many cases, between federal and local revenue sources (including the federal CARES Act funds received by local districts) and district financial reserves, local districts will be able to meet financial obligations with minimal reductions to services and staff. We are not aware of any districts proposing reductions to school counseling, but these decisions are made at the local level.
The General Assembly passed the FY 2021 budget on Friday, June 26, and districts/schools will be learning soon how the state budget will impact local funds and operations. Now is the time to advocate on the local level for maintaining (and strengthening) school counseling programs. Our students will return to school in the fall with a myriad of concerns resulting from sheltering in place, isolation, anxiety, fear of returning to school and questions and concerns about racial equity, safety, and social justice. Our students need their school counselors now more than ever. Develop a plan for addressing student needs either virtually or face-to-face and make sure to share with your school and district leaders how you supported your students during shelter in place this spring.
Our lobbyists, Nelson Mullins, have been hard at work advocating for additional funding and support for school counseling. They have been in conversations with budget leaders who have indicated that fully funding the ratio for all segments remains a priority for funding when revenues improve. Additionally, the final budget did include language emphasizing that the elimination of this new funding was specifically due to the temporary decline in State revenues (rather than lack of interest in or support from legislators to invest in school counseling).
Even though we are disappointed that the full funding of the school counselor ratio did not come to fruition in this budget year, we are encouraged that the House included the funding in its version of the budget and that the supportive language was included in the final budget. We will continue to advocate for the full funding, but, as stated earlier, school counselors must advocate at the local level to maintain programs in the near term. Please feel free to contact the GSCA office for more information.
The GSCA Advocacy Team