A rising number of infections prompted California authorities to ramp up school mental health services.

The latest American School Counselor Association (ASCA) figures show the Golden State increased the number of counselors per student by 43% since the early 2000s.

The current ratio of 572 Californian students for each counselor is much closer to the association’s recommended target of 250. Only New Hampshire, Vermont, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Bureau of Indian Education exceeded that benchmark.

“The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 to one,” ASCA said in its student-to-school counselor ratio data for 2020 to 2021.

One Central Valley media outlet speculated the increase was due to a surge in student mental health challenges from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“The pandemic spurred a mental health crisis among young people,” Stockton Record journalist Carolyn Jones reported.

“School districts have been gradually hiring more counselors since then using funds from the Local Control Funding Formula and, more recently, from the $20 billion windfall for schools in last year’s state budget,” she added.

However, the California Association of School Counselors claims more funding and recruitment is needed to address student concerns about career pathways, academic performance, equity, and other “school climate” issues.

“California schools have no roots in adequately funding student support services,” executive director Loretta Whitson said.

“What is possible under a fully staffed school counseling workforce is simply unimaginable,” she added.

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