Superintendent Hoffman speaking at press briefing Virus Outbreak Arizona Schools
FILE - In this July 23, 2020, file photo, Arizona Department of Education Superintendent Kathy Hoffman speaks during a news conference in Phoenix. Arizona's top health official and the state's education chief laid out a series of guidelines Thursday, Aug. 6, that public schools were urged to use when deciding whether coronavirus infection rates are low enough to safely reopen for full in-person learning. (AP Photo/Matt York, Pool, File)

If your time is short:

  • Records show that Hoffman had expressed a need for Arizona to hire more school mental health counselors since she took office in 2019.
  • Data between 2018 to 2021 shows an increase in school counselors and an improvement in the ratio of counselors to students.
  • In 2021, using a mix of federal and state money, Hoffman allocated $21.3 million for schools to hire counselors and social workers.

Demand for student mental health services has grown as educators grapple with the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on kids.

Democratic Arizona State Superintendent incumbent Kathy Hoffman said that even before the pandemic, she pressed to place additional counselors in Arizona schools.

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“Since 2019, I’ve successfully lobbied for the funds to add hundreds of school counselors, lowering our student to school counselor ratio by 20%,” Hoffman tweeted on July 28.

Did Hoffman raise the number of counselors, and was she the one who pushed for the increase? The record says she did.

Nearly 300 New Counselors

Hoffman took office in 2019. In the 2018-19 school year, Arizona had 1,262 counselors. The next year, that rose to 1,359 counselors. By 2021, Arizona had 1,552 counselors. This is an increase of 290 counselors in three years.

According to the American School Counselors Association, the student-counselor ratio improved from 905 students per counselor in 2018-19 to 716 students per counselor in 2020-21. That’s an improvement of 21%.

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Richie Taylor, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, pointed to Hoffman’s 2019 State of Education speech as proof that she called for additional funding for counselors.

“In an era of ballooning classroom sizes, teachers feel unequipped to manage a class of 30 children while also finding the time to provide individualized attention to their students, especially those that are facing depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts,” Hoffman said in 2019. “That’s why I am fully supportive of any plan to increase the presence of counselors, social workers, and school psychologists in our schools.”

Bolstered Staff With Temporary Funds

Taylor said hiring more counselors was a top priority and the department’s legislative staff worked with the lawmakers to move that forward.

Federal COVID relief dollars made staff increases possible. In 2021, using a mix of federal and state money, Hoffman allocated $21.3 million for schools to hire counselors and social workers under the state’s School Safety Grant program.

The challenge ahead is the relief funds are temporary. Hoffman is urging lawmakers to fund the School Safety Grant program permanently.

Our ruling

Hoffman said, “Since 2019, I’ve successfully lobbied for the funds to add hundreds of school counselors, lowering our student to school counselor ratio by 20%.”

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The numbers back her up. The state hired nearly 300 counselors in the past three years, and the student-to-counselor ratio improved by about 20%. Hoffman began lobbying for more counselors before the COVID-19 pandemic.

We rate this claim True.

OUR SOURCES

American School Counselor Association, Student-to-School-Counselor Ratio 2021-2022
KJZZ, Arizona Superintendent Hoffman Announces $21 Million To Hire School Counselors, Social Workers, April 19, 2021
National Association for College Admission Counseling, State-by-State Student-to-Counselor Ratio Map
American School Counselor Association, Student-to-School-Counselor Ratio 2019-2020
American School Counselor Association, Student-to-School-Counselor Ratio 2018-2019
Arizona Department of Education, About the State Superintendent
Arizona Department of Education, Supt. Hoffman Delivers State of Education Speech to House Representatives, Feb. 4, 2019
AZ Family, Arizona still ranks last in student-counselor ratio despite improvements, Feb. 17, 2022
Email exchange, Richie Taylor, director of communications, Arizona Department of Education, Sept. 6, 2022

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