1 nurse for 7,200 students?

College & Career Readiness, High School Success, School Funding | 10/11/2019

Katie Gustainis
Marketing & Communications Director, Stand for Children Washington

That’s not a typo. In order for a middle school in Washington to receive enough state funding to hire one nurse, they’d need to have 7,200 students enrolled. Even in Seattle, the state’s largest school district, they’d only receive enough money to hire nine nurses

However, when it comes to finding money for staff like guidance counselors, the funding from the state looks much more reasonable. Why, then, aren’t there enough counselors to go around? The Seattle Times Editorial Board weighed in on this topic during the 2019 legislative session:

“Although the state’s prototypical school funding model recommends one counselor for every 236 high school students, one for every 387 middle school students and one for every 812 elementary students, school districts are not obligated by state law to meet these ratios. They have some flexibility about how they spend these state dollars, and some districts are making other choices. Only about one in four Washington schools has a school counselor.” - Seattle Times Editorial Board, March 12, 2019

With many layers of decision makers, there are several key decision points for public education funding. After the state decides how much schools will receive, the district decides how most of that money, known as General Purpose funding, will be spent. 

Here’s a quick refresher on where money for public schools in Washington comes from (starting at 0:36): 

On average, there is one counselor for every 510 students in Washington.

The value of school counselors in supporting students on their educational journey is especially apparent as students move into middle and high school and prepare for college and career next steps after graduation. Creating a ninth grade class schedule, enrolling in advanced classes, applying for financial aid, and taking the SAT are just a few critical examples of when students need to interact with their counselor. 

In reality, there are many more opportunities when a student could use support, but doesn’t have it. We’re going to change that.

During the 2019 legislative session, Stand for Children, as part of the High School Success Coalition, supported an effort to ensure that students have sufficient access to counseling services. Although the legislature approved a small pilot program, it is not enough. 

In 2020, we will continue to advocate for students getting the support they need to graduate prepared for their path beyond high school. While our public education system continues to miss opportunities to support students, we will stand up for every student’s right to achieve their dreams.

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