Clinicians Win Salary Boost in WV Schools The West Virginia legislature recently passed legislation granting speech-language pathologists (SLPs), audiologists, and school counselors in the West Virginia schools a $2,500 annual salary supplement. Gov. Joe Manchin signed S.B. 873 into law on April 5. In fall 2007, selected certified SLPs and audiologists will begin receiving their bonuses. The ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   May 01, 2006
Clinicians Win Salary Boost in WV Schools
Author Notes
  • Janet Deppe, is ASHA’s director of state special initiatives. Contact her by e-mail at jdeppe@asha.org
    Janet Deppe, is ASHA’s director of state special initiatives. Contact her by e-mail at jdeppe@asha.org×
  • Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.
    Susan Boswell, an assistant managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at sboswell@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / School Matters
School Matters   |   May 01, 2006
Clinicians Win Salary Boost in WV Schools
The ASHA Leader, May 2006, Vol. 11, 1-34. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.11062006.1
The ASHA Leader, May 2006, Vol. 11, 1-34. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM1.11062006.1
The West Virginia legislature recently passed legislation granting speech-language pathologists (SLPs), audiologists, and school counselors in the West Virginia schools a $2,500 annual salary supplement. Gov. Joe Manchin signed S.B. 873 into law on April 5. In fall 2007, selected certified SLPs and audiologists will begin receiving their bonuses.
The victory culminates a six-year advocacy effort by clinicians to achieve a salary supplement for school-based SLPs and audiologists. The momentum for an advocacy effort began to build during the 1999 legislative session when the West Virginia legislature recognized and subsequently granted a $1,000 bonus to teachers certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
During the same academic year, the U.S. Department of Education had designated speech-language pathology as a teacher shortage area in West Virginia. It is a shortage that persists and one that is evident on the state Department of Education Web site, which currently lists 15 of the state’s 55 counties as having vacancies for school-based SLPs and audiologists.
“Nationally, West Virginia teachers are at the bottom of the teacher pay scale-47th,” noted Constance Breza, who served as chair of the West Virginia Speech-Language-Hearing Association (WVSHA) Governmental Affairs Committee during the 2005 legislative session. “Since SLPs are paid on the teacher salary scale, we knew we were losing many qualified SLPs to surrounding states, to private practice and to health care.”
Kathryn Freeland, who served as the WVSHA governmental affairs committee co-chair in 2006, said that in working on the issue over the years, “the underlying concern of almost every SLP or audiologist has been recognition of our ASHA certification.”
Building Infrastructure
Beginning in 2000, members of WVSHA approached the legislature to grant a bonus for ASHA-certified SLPs and audiologists.
The following year, the WVSHA agreed to partner with ASHA under the 2001–2004 Focused Initiatives on School-Based Programs and Services. Together, they completed a state action plan that included developing materials, fact sheets, and talking points for WVSHA members to utilize when meeting with legislators. The WVSHA advocacy committee held conference calls regularly to discuss planned activities and strategies.
The partnership also built an infrastructure for a successful grassroots network, Breza noted. “Using ASHA’s state data base, we were able to send out alerts to our members in a timely coordinated fashion. When I first started working on this issue, we had no way of knowing which members were in various legislative districts, and the only way to contact individuals was through phone calls,” Breza said.
“We gradually developed a system of county contacts and were able to acquire a statewide Advocacy Alert e-mail system. This year, we got good member involvement with the WVSHA Public Schools Yahoo! e-mail group.”
Overcoming Opposition
In fall 2001 WVSHA members mobilized through an ASHA-sponsored grassroots training workshop led by Joel Blackwell, a recognized expert on grassroots advocacy. In addition, since states targeted under the 2001–2004 Focused Initiatives were eligible for ASHA legislative and regulatory grants, WVSHA received grants to assist with lobbyist fees, the development and dissemination of resource materials, and travel for members to meet with legislators. But the salary supplement was defeated during the 2001 legislative session.
In 2002 SLP members of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) petitioned their delegate assembly to support WVSHA’s legislative effort. Due to the persistent shortage of qualified SLPs, the union agreed to support WVSHA. Although the bill ultimately died in committee, WVSHA garnered the support of several key legislators, other decision makers, and the union.
A major hurdle up to the end was to prove the value of the salary supplement bill, Freeland noted. “With the help of many in our state association, ASHA, and our lobbyists, we responded to the negativity toward the bill,” she said. “The biggest contribution to overcoming these obstacles has been the persistence of WVSHA in pursuing this legislation.”
Success at Last
This year’s success hinged on the committee’s understanding of the political process, constant communication with the lobbyist, and ability to mobilize on a moment’s notice the extensive grassroots network of SLPs and audiologists constituent members that had been developed over the years.
This advocacy network played a key role in building a political presence. “As WVSHA representatives met with their legislators and staff in Charleston, not once did we hear them say they hadn’t heard of this bill,” Freeland said. “In fact, many of the staffers stated that they had been bombarded with phone calls and e-mails.”
While school-based clinicians will benefit from this year’s legislative victory, WVSHA is well-positioned for future advocacy success. Through systematic efforts to build the infrastructure to sustain a political campaign and a strong grassroots network, the state association is well-positioned in years to come. In fact, WVSHA is already considering other legislative initiatives to assist SLPs, audiologists, and their clients.
Pamela Adkins, WVSHA governmental affairs committee co-chair in 2006, and ASHA Legislative Councilor, said the state association has discussed the need for providing hearing aids for young children in a timely manner, developing a hearing aid bank, and refining the newborn hearing screening law. The association also hopes to return to the speech-language pathology assistant legislation and develop a plan to amend state policy to strengthen weak supervisory guidelines and improve hiring practices.
A National Trend
Salary supplement legislation based on the CCCs has been enacted in nine additional states (funding allocations are pending in three of these states). In addition, supplements are provided to SLPs and/or audiologists in 59 local school districts nationwide. Mississippi pioneered the movement in 1999 by winning a $6,000 annual salary increase for audiologists and SLPs who hold the CCCs, the same amount provided to teachers who hold the NBPTS. Visit the ASHA Web site to download a PDF list of districts with a salary supplement [PDF]. ASHA members who would like to pursue a similar benefit in their school district or state can use an advocacy guide.
For more information about the West Virginia salary supplement, contact Pamela Adkins by e-mail at jpadkins@citynet.net.
Advocacy Success Tips from West Virginia
  • Be persistent. Be willing to answer all questions from your opposition with facts-ASHA has been a major source of information, along with information we’ve gathered that is specific to our state.

  • Lay the groundwork with your membership, education leaders and legislators.

  • Repeat your message. Keep hitting them with the same message over and over: ASHA-certified members are highly qualified professionals, whose certification standards surpass those of National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Our children and our schools deserve nationally certified SLPs and audiologists.

  • Never give up! If you feel your goal is worth pursuing, don’t give up-even if it takes longer than expected.

-Kathryn Freeland, Constance Breza, and Pamela Adkins

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May 2006
Volume 11, Issue 6