How to Influence Decision-Makers
Decide what you want.
A number of possibilities were presented in the salary increases, other compensation, and recruitment and retention sections. Review these possibilities and decide on what is most important to you. In general, the bigger the want, the harder you will have to work for it.
Talk over your idea with a few colleagues.
Find out from two or three of your colleagues if they also want what you do and if they would be willing to work with you to get it. In rural areas or small districts, your colleagues may be in neighboring school districts. If all of you cannot agree on what to work for, you may want to review possibilities again and find something that all of you can agree on.
Choose a leader and recruit other group members.
Your group (you and colleagues who have volunteered to help) will work best if one person (probably you) is selected to lead the group by calling and facilitating meetings, reminding the group of the goal to be achieved, making sure that necessary tasks are done in a timely way, and keeping the group motivated and focused on the overall goal. Colleagues may know of other people who might want to join the group, and they should be encouraged to invite them if they are also willing to work.
Research the issue.
You will need to find answers to questions such as:
- Has the school district ever considered this issue before? Has any action on your issue been taken in the past? Who supported and who opposed the issue in the past and why?
- Do any existing administrative policies prohibit the desired action, e.g., would a freeze on teacher salaries prevent a salary supplement?
- Would the teachers' union support the desired action?
- Would parents support the desired action?
- What is the hierarchy of the decision-making process in your district? Can the decision to grant your request be made by the principal? By the special education administrator? By the teachers' union? By the superintendent of schools? Can the superintendent make the decision or must he or she get concurrence of the teachers' union and/or approval of the school board? Answers to these questions will let you know who needs to be convinced. In some cases, it may be all of the above.
Prepare and present your case.
You will need to develop a proposal that includes the:
- Statement of a problem in your school district (e.g., There is a persistent lack of qualified audiologists and speech-language pathologists).
- Impact of the problem on the school (e.g., Children with speech, language, and hearing disabilities are not receiving the best services and, as a result, have made minimal progress in communication abilities, reading, and writing).
- Your solution (e.g., If a salary supplement were provided to audiologists and speech-language pathologists who hold ASHA's CCC, more qualified providers would be attracted to our school district, children would receive better services, and their communication and academic success would improve).
Be ready to support your case with facts.
Some points you may want to consider are:
- Roles and responsibilities of today's school-based audiologists and speech-language pathologists are broad.
- ASHA's standards for SLP CCC's are rigorous and validated to meet these broad roles and responsibilities.
- Teachers report academic improvement of students who receive services from ASHA-certified professionals.
- Parents report high satisfaction with services.
- Your own district's data over a three- to five-year period on total number of audiologists and speech-language pathologists, number with ASHA CCC, number without, number of vacancies. These facts may be available through your district special education or special services office.
Develop talking points for oral presentation to decision-makers.
Talking points should be brief but also clear enough to identify the issue, define the change needed and its value, and present substantiating facts. Examples of talking points are provided for salary increases, other compensation, and recruitment and retention.
Choose someone from your group who is good at oral presentations to make the presentations. It does not have to be the group leader. Talking points may need to be adjusted a little to address the particular interests of your audience. For example, in a presentation to teachers' union leaders, you may need to add information about how many and what percentage of audiologists and speech-language pathologists are union members.
Be ready to answer tough questions, especially about budget.
A popular question of administrators is "How are we going to pay for the change?" Since 2000, the federal contribution to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) has almost doubled. Find out more about IDEA increases for your state over this time period.
If these funds have increased so dramatically, why have there been only minimal improvements to the audiology/speech-language pathology programs? These programs need to share in this increased revenue that is expected to increase even further as the U.S. Congress strives to honor its commitment for 40% funding of special education costs.
In some cases, the argument can also be made that the audiology/speech-language pathology program generates revenue for the schools through Medicaid reimbursement and that audiology/speech-language pathology should benefit from this extra revenue to the school. You may be able to work with the financial officer of your school district to determine the dollar amount of services billed to Medicaid by the audiology/speech-language pathology program each year and the net income received by the district from these services.
Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pennsylvania
ASHA also answers some tough questions about salary supplement based on National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) certification in its State Advocacy Guidebook for the Salary Supplement Initiative (2001). Contact [email protected] for a copy. The following success stories may also be helpful:
Papillion LaVista School District, Nebraska
Lawton School District, Oklahoma
Put everything you have to do into a chronological plan of what has to be done, who is going to do it, and when it will be done.
This plan will make roles and responsibilities of each member of your group clear and assist you in reaching your objective in an orderly and timely manner.
You can do it!
Progress may come in baby steps, not giant ones. These successes need to be celebrated along the way. You may not reach your objective immediately, but maybe you've finally convinced the administration that audiologists and speech-language pathologists have an impact on a student's educational achievement as well as his or her communication. That's a victory, and that fight won't have to occur again! Your energies can then be focused on other concerns that can be answered one at time. Before you know it, there will be no more obstacles, and your objective will be achieved.