City Comptroller Advances Plan To Reduce Student to Counselor Ratio
October 5, 2012
By Marc Bussanich
Comptroller John Liu launched the Beyond High School NYC initiative in September to help increase the number of city residents with post-secondary degrees, which would benefit the city economically as college graduates with B.A.s will pay more in city income taxes, relative to a high school graduate. On Thursday, October 4 he announced a new proposal, The Power of Guidance, that builds on the September initiative to commit about $175M out of the Department of Education’s $20B budget to bring down the current student-to-counselor ratio from 259:1 to 100:1.
One important finding from the September initiative is that “Just 21 percent of the city’s public school students go on to complete a two-or four-year college degree within 12 years of entering high school.” Therefore, one of the objectives of the new initiative is to ensure that students, especially low-income students, have access to counselors to help them navigate the college enrollment process.
Some of the other key recommendations in the new report include utilizing early intervention systems to help students stay on-track to college, expanding collaborative programs with CUNY and other area colleges and leveraging the thousands of undergraduate and graduate students in the city to mentor high school students.
Joining Mr. Liu at the presser were UFT’s President, Michael Mulgrew and CSA’s President, Ernest Logan. Mulgrew noted that the way Liu went about in crafting his initiatives was refreshing as the comptroller reached out to different educational stakeholders (parents, counselors and administrators) and based his reports on their input.
“A child is not just a test score. The DOE believes that counselors should only be paired with children with special education requirements. Counselors are a key component to a child’s college-readiness,” said Mulgrew.
Logan noted that more affluent students (who tend to be white) have the necessary resources to help them in their social and emotional development, thereby making it less difficult for them to enroll in and graduate from college.
“This is about equity and access. I was eight years old when my father passed way, and because a counselor guided me through that difficult time and throughout high school, I was the first in my family to go to college,” Logan said.
Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director with Alliance for Quality Education, said one of her children attends Edward R. Murrow High School in the Midwood section of Brooklyn where there is a student-to-counselor ratio of 300:1.
“It’s absurd that these recommendations are not already in place,” said Ansari.
Liu said that the initiatives represent a better approach and more cost-effective way of educating the city’s children through hands-on efforts rather than the DOE giving away precious dollars by rewarding private companies with lucrative contracts to do work that could be done more cheaply in-house.
He cited an $80 million contract for the “glitch prone ARIS data system, which has led to no discernible improvement in student learning and is so faulty that it is being replaced.”
A key finding in the Beyond High School report revealed that what New Yorkers earn, by race, closely tracks their educational attainment. For example, “whites earned, on average, $61,735 in 2010, compared to $28,961 for Blacks and $24,745 for Hispanics.”
The initiatives, Liu stressed, will help stabilize the city’s budget in two ways. If more members of the workforce can boost their earnings with a B.A., the city will realize additional tax income while simultaneously reducing struggling earners’ dependence upon public assistance to help make ends meet.
After presenting his findings, Liu took questions from reporters in the room who asked how the DOE will be able to pay the counselors when the DOE is claiming that it is fiscally strained.
“There’s plenty of money at the DOE. Our proposal represents less than 1 percent of the DOE budget and doesn't call for hiring additional counselors. We’re talking about a clear need,” said Liu.
Liu acknowledged that the proposed student-to-counselor ratio of 100:1 is still a significant caseload, but is more manageable based on his conversations with different stakeholders.