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Joaquin Castro Files Bills on School Counseling

State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is looking to shake up the way Texas trains, educates and certifies public school counselors.

TCAC adviser, Allison Najera and Cynthia McCarty, head guidance counselor at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio

State Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, is looking to shake up the way Texas trains, educates and certifies public school counselors.

In a December Texas Tribune article on school counselors, Castro said there were a number of fixable issues — he called it "the low-hanging fruit" — with the state's approach to the profession. This week, he filed a handful of bills addressing those issues.

The first, House Bill 1016, would require that counselor-certification programs specifically address the admissions and financial aid process for higher education. Knowledge of that process is not currently a required component for certification, even though state statute requires high school counselors to provide information on it to students.

"The state has been sending mixed messages to school counselors for years," Castro said in a statement.

HB 1017 and HB 1018 would require schools to notify parents if they do not employ at least one full-time counselor. According to the Legislative Budget Board, that applies to at least 748 campuses in the state.

Finally, HB 1019 would require separate certifications for elementary and secondary counselors. Six states — Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska and Pennsylvania — already have separate certifications. They also have a higher percentage of students that enroll in higher education directly from high school.

Castro says the state's one-size-fits-all certification policy spotlights a key assumption by policy makers "that the duties and responsibilities of an elementary school counselor are the same as those of a high school counselor." He says, "Clearly they are not."

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