Advocacy Pays Off, New Salary Bills Pass in Oklahoma and Rhode Island This year, under the 2001–2004 Focused Initiatives Program, ASHA provided support for salary supplement legislation for school-based clinicians in three states: Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. New salary supplements range from $1,750 to $5,000 for school-based clinicians in Oklahoma and Rhode Island. These two states join West Virginia in ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   September 01, 2006
Advocacy Pays Off, New Salary Bills Pass in Oklahoma and Rhode Island
Author Notes
  • Janet Deppe, is the director of state special initiatives at ASHA. For more information, contact her by phone at 800-498-2071 ext. 4447 or by e-mail at jdeppe@asha.org.
    Janet Deppe, is the director of state special initiatives at ASHA. For more information, contact her by phone at 800-498-2071 ext. 4447 or by e-mail at jdeppe@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   September 01, 2006
Advocacy Pays Off, New Salary Bills Pass in Oklahoma and Rhode Island
The ASHA Leader, September 2006, Vol. 11, 1-19. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.11122006.1
The ASHA Leader, September 2006, Vol. 11, 1-19. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.11122006.1
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  • Members of the Oklahoma Speech- Language-Hearing Association became effective grassroots advocates through the salary supplement campaign, including, left to right, Susan McHugh, Lucynda Olberding, Mona Ryan, and Kathy Wheat.

This year, under the 2001–2004 Focused Initiatives Program, ASHA provided support for salary supplement legislation for school-based clinicians in three states: Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. New salary supplements range from $1,750 to $5,000 for school-based clinicians in Oklahoma and Rhode Island. These two states join West Virginia in
providing the annual bonus. As a result, salaries for school-based members with their CCCs in those states will increase by a total of $4.8 million each year.
Oklahoma
“The salary supplement is a victory for Oklahoma because it will encourage clinicians to come to work in the schools,” said Mona Ryan, Oklahoma Speech-Language-Hearing Association (OSHA) president.
“Like many states, we have persistent vacancies in rural and urban areas. Students were leaving academic programs to work in medical settings in urban areas,” she said. “We also looked at retention and realized that clinicians weren’t staying in the schools because they felt that they weren’t being recognized as professionals. The salary supplement will help them gain increased professional recognition.”
Efforts to gain a salary supplement in Oklahoma began with school psychologists and demonstrated the power of partnerships among state and national associations. In 2000 the Oklahoma School Psychological Association (OSPA) introduced legislation to amend the Oklahoma Education Leadership Act, a bill passed to provide a financial incentive for teachers achieving advanced certification through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS). The effort failed, but it ultimately helped school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and audiologists to join forces.
“Over the years, we found that our professional organizations were compatible because we were working on many of the same issues,” Ryan said.
The two groups became a stronger political force with a jointly hired lobbyist. In order to raise awareness about the professionals, the groups sponsored an annual legislative breakfast-now a “Brownies and Ice Cream” afternoon annual event-at the Capitol.
Beginning in 2001, ASHA’s State Education Action Team (SEAT) initiated a partnership between OSHA and the school psychologists’ group. Efforts to pass legislation intensified as the state began to experience a shortage of qualified professionals in school settings and had difficulty recruiting and retaining qualified SLPs, audiologists, and school psychologists. During that year, ASHA sponsored grassroots and media training and awarded a grant to help hire a lobbyist.
Next, a grassroots advocacy coordinator was appointed and a grassroots sign-on table with a large map of the legislative districts was posted at OSHA’s annual meeting. More than 100 OSHA members signed on and agreed to contact their representatives and senators. A grassroots database was developed and group e-mail alerts activated the network.
“One of the biggest factors in successfully passing a salary supplement was coordination with ASHA,” Ryan said. “The partnership helped the state association set up an infrastructure for a grassroots network and develop an action plan for working through the process of pursuing a salary supplement.”
In 2003, school psychologists belonging to OSPA became delegates to the Oklahoma Educational Association (OEA), a group that typically opposed OSHA/OSPA’s salary supplement legislation. At the subsequent annual OEA delegate assembly, the OSPA delegates convinced OEA not to oppose the legislation and both groups continued efforts to educate House and Senate members as well as the Department of Education.
“Building the groundwork took years of effort. We had to get around a lack of support and it took a while to get our message across. We developed talking points that included speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and school psychologists. We presented this packet of information to legislators, and testified to different committees,” Ryan said.
“In the end, we finally wrote legislation that passed. After we got support from legislators, the final bill sailed through the legislature.”
In 2004 the Oklahoma legislature finally approved legislation that authorized a $5,000 annual bonus for school-based SLPs, audiologists, and psychologists-but it took two more years of behind-the-scenes work to get funds appropriated for the supplement.
“The biggest battle-and in the end, the real victory-was securing the recognition for our professions,” Ryan said.
Rhode Island
Rhode Island members were rewarded with one of the first victories as part of the ASHA/state partnership efforts under the Focused Initiatives. In 2002, the first year of the Rhode Island Speech-Language-Hearing Association (RISHA) partnership, an advocacy committee was formed. The group identified its legislative strategy, developed an action plan, and began to formulate a grassroots database. Its efforts were rewarded with the passage of H.B. 5199, which provided SLPs with access to the Rhode Island Professional Development Investment Fund for application and fee support while pursuing their ASHA Certificates of Clinical Competence (CCC).
In 2004 advocacy committee members continued their efforts by enlisting the support of Hanna Gallo, an SLP in the South Kingstown School Department who was elected state senator in 1998. Gallo’s support was important; she believed SLPs deserved to be recognized, appreciated ASHA’s guidance and support, and recognized the group’s commitment to success. “This is an equity issue, teachers receive a supplement for being nationally certified. We are nationally certified and our work should be recognized,” Gallo said.
“This salary supplement will help retain speech-language pathologists who are going over the border for higher wages. We need to do whatever we can to ensure that we have the best speech-language pathologist that we can have for the students in Rhode Island,” she added.
“Senator Gallo’s presence in our state legislature represented a unique and invaluable resource,” said Marcia McOsker, RISHA president, who testified on behalf of the bill. She added that “working with ASHA as a targeted state helped systematize our efforts.”
To support legislators dedicated to RISHA’s cause, a political action committee was formed which continued to educate legislators about the need for a bonus to recruit and retain qualified SLPs in the schools. With an ASHA grant, the committee hired a lobbying firm to help navigate the legislative process and RISHA continued its grassroots campaign.
“The group ran into roadblocks from representatives of local school district boards who opposed an unfunded mandate from the state,” recalled Sheryl Amaral, the 2003–2005 chair of the RISHA advocacy committee. She presented research demonstrating that at least 75% of Medicaid funding comes from SLPs. “In my district SLPs bring in $600,000 in Medicaid funds for direct services alone, excluding evaluations or administrative functions,” Amaral said.
During the 2006 legislative session, Gallo continued to work behind the scenes to fund a salary supplement. On June 30, 2006, H.B. 7120A passed as part of a budget bill providing all 150–200 SLPs who hold the ASHA CCC in the state’s 38 districts with an annual bonus of $1,750.
“The salary supplement is landmark legislation for SLPs working in the public schools in Rhode Island,” McOsker said. “This represents not only a financial supplement, but also recognition of the high standards that ASHA certification epitomizes. Hopefully, this will provide incentive for all school-based SLPs to acquire and maintain ASHA certification.”
ASHA’s efforts to provide assistance and support to states advocating for salary supplements for school-based members have been highly successful. In addition to the three targeted states, four others-Mississippi, Delaware, Missouri, Indiana, and Nevada-provide salary supplements for school-based members. Louisiana and Arkansas have also enacted legislation supporting a salary supplement and are now pursuing appropriations for their supplements.
When the supplements mentioned above including Louisiana and Arkansas are added to the $4.8 million for school-based SLPs in Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia, the total increase is more than $12 million. The lesson of these victories is clear-patience, persistence, and perseverance really do pay off.
Susan Boswell, assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, contributed to this story.
Advocating for Salary Supplements
Tips From Winning States
  • Be consistent. “One of the most important things is to have a consistent message with legislators,” said Sheryl Amaral of Rhode Island.

  • Employ diverse strategies over time. Initial efforts began approximately 10 years ago in Rhode Island, according to Marcia McOsker. Over time, RISHA employed a lobbyist, partnered with ASHA as part of a Focused Initiative, and used ASHA’s tracking system to follow the passage of relevant legislation. “I think that every part of the process was important,” McOsker noted. “It takes a variety of strategies over time to make legislation happen.”

  • Develop a communications plan. “It’s important to continue to inform people throughout the state-and throughout the process-about what you’re doing. Even a few misinformed people can spoil an effort. There are always people who haven’t heard of the effort who will become supporters,” said Oklahoma’s Mona Ryan. The advocacy committee in that state developed talking points that included speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and school psychologists.

  • Don’t get discouraged. “People get dispirited,” Amaral said. “They don’t realize that it takes a few years to get legislation passed. Commitment and quiet persistence are key. It’s important to stay positive.” She noted that Rhode Island had only had a small group of volunteers-but they were really committed.

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September 2006
Volume 11, Issue 12