Proposed bill would put more guidance counselors in OCPS



ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, Florida lawmakers are trying to make schools safer.

In addition to beefing up security, there's a new bill that would put more guidance counselors in schools.

It's an idea that parents and students told WFTV they support.

"Basically, what I think is that it is a great idea to have more guidance counselors, because there's a lot of kids that are hurting," said Boone High School parent Sallie Carroll.

"I feel like we don't have enough at this school," said Boone 10th-grader Sophie Fernandez.

Filed by Sen. Nancy Detert, the bill would send an army of new state-certified guidance counselors into Florida public schools.

"They are trained as professionals to recognize signs, and we have an overview of how to report if you have any concerns," said Vicky Luttrell-Uppenkamp, the director for academic and guidance services for Orange County Public Schools.

Luttrell-Uppenkamp said the student-to-counselor ratio in OCPS is about 500 to 1.

Seminole County has about the same ratio, Channel 9's Drew Petrimoulx reported, but at some schools, one counselor is serving up to 800 students.

Under the new bill, student-to-counselor ratios across the state would be slashed to 300 to 1.

"I think any of us that has students or works with children understand that any added support to children is always something that's useful," said Luttrell-Uppenkamp.

The proposal would no doubt be pricey. In Orange County, pay for guidance counselors starts at $37,000 a year.

To comply with the bill, the district would have to hire about 250 more counselors at a cost of more than $9 million a year.

The bill doesn't say where the money would come from, but parents said it's worth the added costs.

"I would be willing to pay more in order to make that happen, absolutely," said parent Stephen Komives.

The bill will be considered in the next legislative session, which begins March 5.