ASHA's Focused Initiative on Personnel Issues in Health Care and Education spearheaded a variety of creative mechanisms in 2007 to address this critical concern in the professions.
Salary supplements help attract and retain school-based clinicians, and gathering information about these supplements is critical. The initiative gathered key salary supplement advocacy information, updating the State Advocacy Guidebook for the Salary Supplement Initiative. The updated information includes side-by-side comparisons of supplements for ASHA certification and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification (NBPTS); a new memo explaining NBPTS certification from Noma Anderson, ASHA's past president; and new media information.
ASHA staff also worked with representatives of state associations interested in establishing state advisory groups. These groups, comprising service providers, consumer groups, parent networks, and other decision-makers, are meeting to address issues related to the shortage of qualified personnel. Alaska, Nebraska, and Florida initiated advisory groups in 2007.
Other states established advisory groups through ASHA's program of grants to recognized state associations. State associations in Alabama, Texas, Indiana, New York, Oregon, West Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, Washington, and Ohio received $40,000 in grants to fund a variety of specific activities: establishment of a collaborative university distance education program in Texas; developing, compiling, and publishing vacancy data in Oregon; developing a public relations campaign to address shortages in Washington; and developing and distributing information packets on grassroots advocacy to speech-language pathologists and audiologists in Ohio.
Some states are at risk for actions that would reduce qualifications for school-based SLPs and audiologists, and ASHA worked with state associations in Arizona, Idaho, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Virginia on this issue. ASHA's Schools Personnel Issues Resource and Information Team (SPIRIT), which includes staff from the Schools and State Advocacy teams, helped members in these states develop strategies to identify recruitment and retention incentives, establish statewide committees to address the issues, identify good models, and promote legislative or regulatory efforts to maintain quality standards of practice.
In Idaho, state association leaders developed a multifaceted approach to solving public schools shortages: they established a statewide advisory panel, created an online pre-professional program, and initiated legislation to create a stipend for clinicians who commit to working in schools with shortages for a given period of time following graduation.
In New Hampshire, ASHA and the state association persuaded the state's education department to accept only SLPs with graduate degrees in communication sciences and disorders (CSD) for employment in education settings. Previously, bachelor's-level SLPs with graduate degrees in related fields could practice as SLPs. Efforts are also underway to use federal grant funds to increase the number of CSD graduates at the University of New Hampshire from 20 to 32 per year.
Efforts to expand the number of active participants on the shortage coalition in Texas have been successful. Plans include a presentation for the state education commissioner by members of the Texas Speech-Language-Hearing Association and the state directors of special education to highlight the efforts of the group to reduce the substantial shortage of qualified SLPs. Texas officials also met with members of the Ohio Master's Network Initiatives in Education-Speech Language Pathology (OMNIE) project to discuss strategies for increasing the capacity of the 17 CSD programs in the state.
In Tennessee, training programs were held throughout the state for SLPs and administrators on new professional personnel standards that require school clinicians to have a master's degree from a Council on Academic Accredition-approved graduate program. Two new recruitment brochures addressing the benefit of school-based careers and effective ways to manage workloads were also developed.
In Virginia, more than 180 state association members testified against proposed rules for speech-language pathology assistants (SLPA). State association officials will continue to work with the state's education department to develop SLPA regulations.
A new strategy pairs experts in personnel shortage issues with state association officials who requested assistance. Six ASHA members, selected for their knowledge of personnel requirements in schools and their familiarity with state legislative and regulatory processes, serve in this cadre: Cherry Wright (Texas), Nancy Creaghead (Ohio), Tom Linear (North Dakota), Cate Crowley (New York), Nancy Alarcon (Washington), and Charlette Green (Georgia). Cadre members participated in two Webinar training sessions with ASHA staff to help prepare them for their activities.They helped states organize and develop an action plan; presented information to state association members on strategies to address personnel shortages; and facilitated a statewide meeting of stakeholders.
On a national level, the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services made gains on several fronts. The coalition works to sustain a discussion among all key stakeholders on the issue of personnel shortages in education settings; develop and share personnel shortages data and information; and improve policies and practices affecting personnel shortages in special education and related services professions.
ASHA and the Personnel Center, housed at the National Association of State Directors of Special Education, co-chair the coalition, which represents more than 30 national, state, and local organizations. Recent projects include establishing a Web site to provide administrators and hiring officials with information on the training, certification, and licensure requirements of the coalition professions represented; data on the extent of the shortages; success stories; and resources on recruitment and retention strategies. The coalition developed a PowerPoint presentation to use with policymakers at national meetings and conferences, and created data fact sheets and other information on personnel shortages and their impact.
As states continue to wrestle with personnel shortages in education and health care settings, ASHA will continue to provide assistance through the new state outreach model (see story, p. 6).