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IDEA: Qualified Providers

What IDEA Says

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) eliminated the requirement that state education personnel standards meet the highest requirement for a profession or discipline in that state. Under IDEA, standards for school-based related services providers must have met the “highest requirement in the state” for a profession or discipline, although waivers were allowed on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. This linked state education agency personnel standards with standards established by other state agencies or regulatory bodies such as state license boards. Under the law, qualifications for related services personnel, including speech-language pathologists (SLPs), must be consistent with any state-approved or state-recognized certification, licensing, or other comparable requirement applicable to a specific professional discipline. The law further stipulates that such personnel must not have had their certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis. The accompanying report language to the bill indicated concern that IDEA had “established an unreasonable standard for State educational agencies to meet, and as a result, has led to a shortage of the availability of related services providers.”

Implications for ASHA Members

States that waive certification or licensure requirements in school settings for related services personnel, including audiologists and SLPs, on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis can no longer use such a waiver. These states may modify their personnel standards so that related services providers who meet emergency qualifications can be given a full credential. States that have tried to lower standards for other reasons may also act. Still other states will take no action because they believe that their standards are in the best interest of their school children.

Although laws or regulations may change, what is most important is the hiring practices of the local education agencies (LEAs). Hiring under modified personnel standards should be no more frequent than hiring currently done under emergency, temporary, or provisional waiver.

What Members Should Do

LEAs are encouraged to continue hiring the same quality of related services provider because it is in the best interest of the children. While the IDEA drops the requirement for states to develop a comprehensive system of personnel development, the law requires that states must adopt policies that require LEAs to take measurable steps to recruit, hire, and retain highly qualified personnel. States and LEAs should be closely monitored to make sure that they comply with this requirement, especially if state standards are lowered.

ASHA members should clarify if their state-level professional standards may be set by law through the state legislature or through regulatory agencies such as the State Department of Education or a professional licensure board. How your state acts will depend on a few factors including:

  • the perceived or actual extent of shortages of qualified providers in all school districts (rural, suburban, and urban);
  • past actions by the state to raise or lower standards; and
  • the political clout of school administrators, school boards, and teachers’ unions at the state and local level.

Most critical is the ability of your state speech-language-hearing association to monitor proposed legislative and/or regulatory actions in your state and to rally its members and the parents of school children to advocate effectively for standards of quality.

Reference: P.L.108-446, Title I, Part A, Section 602 Definitions, paragraph (26); Part B, Section 612, subparagraph (a)(14); and Part C, Section 635, subparagraph (a)(9)

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