Inspired by the increasing number of salary supplement success stories in states and school districts across the nation, audiologists and speech-language pathologists in the Calcasieu Parish Schools in Lake Charles, Louisiana, decided the time had come to take action with a year-long advocacy strategy that ultimately paid off in an annual supplement totaling $72,000 for the 24 clinicians.
"The driving force for working to obtain the supplement was to better compete with the private sector and to attract and maintain those with national certification," said Susan Caldwell, a speech-language pathologist. "We have more than 17 clinicians who have more than 25 years of experience and we will experience a shortage in the future if we do not offer competitive salaries." Caldwell led the advocacy effort along with SLP Christe Pettis and audiologist Leslie Serna.
Pettis noted Calcasieu Parish's disadvantage in attracting new members of the professions because it is not located near a graduate program in speech-language pathology or audiology. A second motivation for the effort was the desire to achieve parity with teachers, social workers, and school psychologists, all of whom receive a state-funded $5,000 salary supplement when they obtain national certification, Pettis said.
The trio gathered data to support their cause from the ASHA Web site, printing out the "Side-By-Side Comparison Overview" of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the ASHA certifications of clinical competence (CCCs). They also used information about "Increasing Salaries in the Schools," modifying it for their district and noting that only ASHA-certified SLPs and audiologists may sign for Medicaid reimbursement (Medicare reimbursement dollars go into the district's general fund).
With these data in hand, the group approached Annie Mouton, department supervisor for speech and hearing, and then the parish superintendent, Wayne Savoy, who was also supportive, but wanted more information. The group compiled a comparison of salaries in neighboring parishes as well as in nearby southeast Texas. The trio also requested—and received—letters in support of the salary supplement from the coordinator of pupil appraisal and the director of special education.
At the school board's Budget Committee meeting, Caldwell presented the case for a salary supplement, with most of the district's ASHA-certified SLPs and audiologists, the department supervisor for speech and hearing, and other supportive SLPs in attendance. The committee unanimously supported the move, and at the next meeting, proposed to fund an annual salary supplement of $3,000 for clinicians with the ASHA CCCs. The school board passed the measure in November 2007, providing funding for the supplement from the parish general fund until Louisiana funds statewide salary supplement legislation that was passed nearly five years ago.
Successes Spread Nationwide
Salary supplement initiatives have been underway at the state level as well as at the local district level for more than a decade. As in the case of Calcasieu Parish, supplements have been advocated and implemented for a variety of reasons, including parity issues with other professional salaries, as a recruitment and retention tool, and as compensation for increased caseloads and other responsibilities such as Medicaid billing. Mississippi was the first to enact statewide salary supplement legislation for SLPs and audiologists in 1999, the result of lobbying efforts over many legislative sessions by the Mississippi Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Since that time, nine additional states have passed salary supplement legislation. Two of the 10 states, Louisiana and Arkansas, continue to seek funding support for their laws.
Funded statewide supplements range from $1,750 to $6,000 (in Mississippi and Delaware) annually. Salary supplements apply to both SLPs and audiologists in five of the funded states (Delaware, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia). In the three remaining states (Rhode Island, Missouri and Nevada), the supplement applies only to SLPs. Mississippi, Rhode Island, and West Virginia also provide funds towards obtaining the ASHA CCCs. A number of state associations will continue to press for the passage of salary supplements during legislative sessions this year.
In 21 states, a total of 80 local school districts provide supplements, which range from $750 to $8,320 (in the Pasadena, Texas, district) annually. Rather than offering a set dollar amount, some districts provide a percentage increase, such as Indian River County (Florida), which provides an additional 15% of base salary annually for SLPs with their CCCs.
Other district incentives include a one-time supplement, payment of ASHA dues, a salary schedule separate from the teachers' salary schedule, credit for a master's degree, credit for previous employment outside of the school district, and sign-on bonuses. California has the largest number of districts (15) that provide supplements, with Virginia following close behind with 11 districts that provide supplements. Only 11 of the 80 district supplements apply to both SLPs and audiologists; the other supplements apply only to SLPs.
For more information about the Calcasieu Parish Schools salary supplement, contact Susan Caldwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.