In a new year with new legislative sessions, state associations in Kansas, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Virginia, and West Virginia continue to partner with ASHA's State Education Action Team (SEAT) in pursuit of better conditions for school-based clinicians. In Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia, the goal is to secure salary supplements for ASHA-certified school-based clinicians. In Kansas and Virginia, efforts continue to reduce caseloads, defining caseload in terms of total workload.
Efforts by the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia (SHAV) to lower speech-language pathologists' caseloads in the public schools continue. SHAV members have prepared for the 2004 legislative session by building on the success achieved in 2003 when the Virginia Board of Education recommended that SLPs' caseloads be reduced from 68 to 60 students. During the fall and winter, SHAV members made visits, contacted their legislators, and attended regional budget hearings to ask for support of the caseload recommendation.
The caseload recommendation is now included in a Virginia Standards of Quality (SOQ) revisions package-and is the only special education item included in the package. The complete SOQ package is being presented as two different bills: H.B. 1014, co-sponsored by Delegates James Dillard and Jack Reid, and S.B. 479, sponsored by Sen. Russell Potts. SHAV supports the SLP caseload reduction proposal, as well as the entire SOQ package as presented in these bills.
On Jan. 19 a SEAT representative and 15 other people attended SHAV's Second Annual Lobby Day in Richmond, VA, to lobby for the SOQ package. Participants attended a briefing by the SHAV lobbyist, visited key legislators, and attended a General Assembly Session, where they were introduced by one of SHAV's bill sponsors. In addition, Sarah Peters, SHAV president, was interviewed by a local TV station.
Many legislators voiced support for the SOQ package. SHAV plans to continue its push for passage of the package throughout the 2004 legislative session.
The Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (KSHA) has been moving forward with its goals to educate members and provide training on ASHA's workload model throughout the state. The SEAT and KSHA also are working with the Kansas Department of Education to recommend inclusion of workload language in the state's revised guidelines for the provision of speech-language pathology services in the schools.
A caseload/workload implementation workshop with Sally Disney and Judy Rudebusch of the ASHA Ad Hoc Committee on Caseload Size is planned for March 18. SLPs in the Harvey County Special Education Cooperative have been piloting the workload model in their district and are developing a long-range plan to implement the model. In addition, an SLP Guidelines Review Committee has been established by the Kansas Department of Education and has begun work to revise the state's draft guidelines for SLPs. ASHA's SEAT is participating as a member of the committee.
Rhode Island Speech-Language-Hearing Association (RISHA) members have renewed their efforts to secure passage of legislation providing a salary supplement to ASHA-certified school-based SLPs. Bolstered by the victory achieved during the 2003 legislative session-during which modified salary supplement legislation providing fee support for SLPs seeking ASHA certification was passed-they have been raising money for the RISHA PAC, attending fund-raising events, gaining new sponsors for their salary supplement bills, and mobilizing their grassroots network. ASHA's SEAT has been working with RISHA and its lobbyists to introduce two bills during the 2004 legislative session: a parity bill and a bill seeking a $3,500 salary supplement for ASHA-certified SLPs. The $3,500 is being requested because it is an average of salary supplements provided to teachers in districts who are receiving salary supplements.
Prior to the opening of the legislative session, members of the Oklahoma Speech-Language-Hearing Association's (OSHA) advocacy committee met with the Senate chair of appropriations and staff to garner support for a new recognition bill for SLPs and school psychologists with national certification. The pre-filed bill, S.B. 1207, which provided a $5,000 salary bonus for certified SLPs and school psychologists, is being amended to reflect the recognition status. The OSHA advocacy chair and ASHA's SEAT are drafting a letter to accompany 140 constituent letters of support that also will reflect the change in strategy. Committee members have continued to attend fundraisers for targeted legislators, advocacy committee members and the SEAT are preparing testimony for subcommittee hearings this spring, and members are preparing for upcoming contacts with their legislators.
The West Virginia Speech-Language-Hearing Association (WVSHA) has been working with the state Department of Education (DOE) to revise a policy that would allow local districts to hire speech-language pathology assistants as independent providers in shortage areas. The West Virginia Board of Education heard testimony opposing the policy from the SEAT, WVSHA, and the president of the state teachers' union. The Board of Education requested that the DOE appoint a task force, including WVSHA members, to look into alternatives for dealing with the persistent shortages of qualified SLPs.
As a result, WVSHA has been working with the DOE to develop an incentive package to alleviate shortages and recruit and retain certified SLPs. Recruitment and retention incentive materials developed by ASHA's SEAT have been distributed to the state superintendent and special education consultant. The state superintendent met with the advocacy committee to develop a plan to use SLP-generated Medicaid funds to pay for a supplement.
The committee also has been meeting with the House education chair to discuss salary supplement legislation. The SEAT was asked to help develop legislative language that would require local districts to allocate a percentage of Medicaid funds received to recruit and retain qualified SLPs that provide services in the program. A conference call is scheduled for the entire committee to plan strategy.