Clinicians in New York and California scored advocacy victories in winning salary supplements for ASHA-certified speech-language pathologists.
In the Sunnyvale School District, 15 miles north of San Jose in "Silicon Valley" California, SLPs scored their first major victory by winning a $2,438 salary supplement to address a personnel shortage.
"We sought the supplement because of the difficulty in recruiting SLPs for our district," said SLP Carol Fenwick. "For the last three years, the majority of SLPs have been contract employees."
As the shortage of school-based SLPs increased, the time was right for bringing the issue to the negotiating team of the Sunnyvale Education Association (SEA). Fenwick, who has been active in the SEA for a decade, both as a school representative and a member of the executive board, made a presentation to the SEA executive board outlining the challenges in recruiting SLPs in the area; the difficulty covering caseloads when the district loses clinicians; and the growing workload for SLPs from increases in paperwork and litigation.
The result was a vote in support of the 10 district SLPs to pay an annual supplement equivalent to a supplement for teachers who have earned national board certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. "The provision of the salary supplement is the first time the district has shown a willingness to address the personnel shortage," Fenwick said.
On the East Coast, Sandy Ladd proved that educating others about the role and credentials of SLPs can pay off in a salary supplement.
In the West Genesee School District in Camillus, New York, Ladd found herself working in a middle school along with the union president. In New York, Ladd noted, clinicians need a master's degree in a related discipline as well as a state teaching certificate in speech, yet school districts have asked SLPs to sign Medicaid forms that require a state license as well as the ASHA CCC.
"Our salary did not reflect the fact that we have these credentials," Ladd said. "I began a campaign to educate the union about SLPs' credentials and our jobs in the schools."
In conversations over eight years, Ladd provided the union officer with information about her job and her credentials, and she passed along ASHA's materials about salary supplements for SLPs. The turning point came when the district awarded a stipend to teachers who have national board certification. The union president called requesting clarification about credentials for SLPs; Ladd sought additional information from ASHA, and promptly forwarded this information. "I reminded him that we had to continue to obtain continuing education to maintain our credentials," Ladd said.
Ladd's friendly persuasion played a role in the victory for the district's six full-time and two part-time SLPs. A June 2007 three-year contract awarded a $1,500 salary supplement to SLPs with ASHA CCCs, teachers with national board certification, and certified guidance counselors.
"Don't give up!" is Ladd's advice for other SLPs. "It takes time and a sustained effort to educate others about the role of the SLP."
Advocate for Action
The CCCs also have meant extra salary for audiologists and SLPs in at least 75 local school districts in 18 additional states. Visit a list of these districts [PDF].
ASHA members who would like to pursue a similar benefit can use an advocacy guide at Increasing Salaries in the Schools. For more information, contact Janet Deppe, director of state education policy, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 4447; or Eileen Crowe, director of state association relations, at email@example.com or 800-498-2071, ext. 4221.