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Counselor funding joins list of bills in holding pattern

A bill that would double funding for the Colorado Counselor Corps was passed 4-2 by the Senate Education Committee Thursday and was sent to join the growing stack of bills waiting for the legislature to sort out its 2014-15 spending priorities.

The corps grant program provides funds to district to increase their counseling staffs and improve counseling services. The corps currently receives $5 million a year, and Senate Bill 14-150 would double that amount, as well broadening the number of eligible schools and imposing some new administrative requirements. (Read the bill summary here.)

Created by a 2008 law, the program has been targeted at schools with higher-than-average dropout rates and enrollments of at-risk students.

Some 126 schools in 59 districts have received funds to date, and more than 100,000 students have been served, program administrator Misti Ruthven told the committee. She said dropout rates have decreased and graduation rates have increased at schools that received grants. (For details, see the program’s annual report here.)

Schools currently receive three-year grants. SB 14-150 would extend the term to four years, funding an additional 50 counselors a year.

Samantha Haviland, president of the Colorado School Counselors Assocation, said the state has one counselor per 400 students, compared to the recommended ratio of 1-to-250.

Two Republican committee members, Mark Scheffel of Parker and Vicki Marble of Fort Collins, voted against the bill, saying they’re concerned about its requirement that the program meet “nationally accepted guidelines and standards.”

The measure joins a growing list of spending bills, education-related and otherwise, that are on hold in the House and Senate appropriations committees. Legislative leaders will start culling that list after release of quarterly revenue forecasts next week gives them a better idea of how much money lawmakers have to spend in 2014-15.