Advocating for Comprehensive School Counseling Programs

Grant Hosford is a Foundation for Tacoma Students Board Member, retired high school principal and former counselor. He submitted a written testimony (below) this week to senators advocating in support of SB 5030 regarding the development of comprehensive school counseling programs. Grant also testified in support of this bill in person during the 2020 legislative session. 


I am a Board member at the Foundation for Tacoma Students [FFTS]. This position means a great deal to me because the Foundation’s goal is supporting all Tacoma students to be successful cradle to career and tapping into whatever resources necessary to elevate kids of poverty and color to equal status with all others on this journey.


As a retired junior high counselor for 13 years and then a junior and high school principal for over 20 years, I have experienced first-hand the incredibly positive influence counselors exert daily in the lives of students. So often when discussing education, the conversation goes directly to teachers and lesson plans, but in order for them to be successful, the student must have the emotional stability and feeling of self-worth to successfully learn.


Much of this personal strength and self-confidence can come from parents and other family members, but when such support is missing, the student begins to experience personal and educational failure. Additional trauma, such as, divorce, abuse, poverty, homelessness, gangs, violence, and inequality can make this educational journey even more difficult, thus putting the learning gap into play. In order to maintain any real chance of success for students experiencing such learning challenges, the educational system must provide support personnel to help students either not spiral into these learning gaps or be with them early enough to help them stay even with their more fortunate peers.



During my career as a counselor and administrator, some of the major examples of influences making it hard for students to learn included not having supportive parents or any parents at all, being in the foster care system, being abused, being guided into prostitution, drug use, drug sales, constantly surrounded by violence, subjected to use of guns, and very difficult divorces.


I have witnessed suicide and murder, taken guns from students, seen what pain pimps inflicted on young girls, the same with drugs, shootings, gang beatings, initiations, no food available, no housing; despair dominating a child’s life. Yes, these are dramatic examples of what can impact a student’s personal and educational progress, but they are much more in place than is often given credence. Even in these harsh examples, with personal support and daily guidance students can successfully work through their challenges and be successful in school. However, the resources that can deliver such support has continually been eroded over the past several years, caught in the school funding battle. 


Counselors and nurses are many times the first to be significantly cut or eliminated altogether when school district budgets are reduced. When this happens, the very students that need this direct support go without and the learning gap grows even wider.



My hope is that with a brighter and brighter spotlight being focused on the learning inequities our students endure, efforts such as SB-5030 are enacted to either maintain or rebuild comprehensive K-12 counseling programs in our state. Failure to do so will cost millions more from students dropping out, not graduating, or even turning to crime than providing the funding up front to support all students through their developmentally sensitive years.


I have a son that is currently a high school administrator in a district that has counselors at each grade level, school nurses and social workers. It is not surprising that the graduation rate there is 95% and higher. These resources are in place even with the student population being in the higher income levels.


It is our position at the Foundation for Tacoma Students that this safety net must be in place in all districts for all students. We hope in the strongest way possible that SB-5030 is in place and funded at the end of this legislative session. 


Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of this proposed legislation.