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High schools see need for guidance counselors, districts fight for resource funding

school counselor shortage

POCATELLO, Idaho - A lack of funding toward local school districts has some schools understaffed with dwindling resources, including guidance counselors.

Highland High School senior Christina Mottishaw struggles to find time to meet with her guidance counselor, as nearly 1,500 students have to share the only four who work around the clock to make sure the students at Highland graduate and pursue their dreams.

"When we have upwards of 350-400 seniors my guidance counselor has a bit of a problem not only dealing with all that she has to do, but you have to go in ahead of time because the application process isn't a short one," Mottishaw said. "It takes her two weeks per student to do it."

The most recent numbers released by the American School Counselor Association shows there were 489 students per every high school counselor in Idaho in 2011. This is almost double the national recommended amount of 250 students per counselor.

The study can be found here:

School District 25 Superintendent Mary Vagner said this year she will be back in Boise asking state lawmakers to provide more funding necessary to keep these resources around.

"We have made dramatic cuts over the past five years and we are still at a 9.5% furloughed year, still at a five percent pay reduction," Vagner said.

Since 2008, the school district has lost a total of $16,469,921 in discretionary funding.

Vagner noted there has been a steadily significant increase in the number of students attending schools within the district, however the number of staff members have either risen slightly or have dwindled.

Lawmakers have already proposed two different budget solutions.

The first by Governor Butch Otter does not appoint any money toward salaries, according to data released by the Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy. In the second budget proposal State Superintendent Tom Luna has appointed money for a career ladder, however Vagner and other district officials hope to work with Luna in order to come to a solution that will put that money toward salaries and benefits instead.

Vagner said they have been extremely frugal with the low wallets the district has been allotted, and has managed to save money that can't be used for text books and other necessary resources.

"We are able to use that money, and instead of being able to use it to pay for administrators, we are using it to help pay for bills," Vagner said.

In the meantime, school guidance counselors won't be the only scarce resource if the funding ceases to go toward school districts.

Idaho's chief economist Mike Ferguson will be in Pocatello Thursday afternoon at 2:00 to meet with D25 officials as well as Power County's school district. Ferguson's presentation will be held in the College of Education auditorium at Idaho State University.

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