Missouri SLPs Win on School Retirement Issue School-based speech-language pathologists in Missouri are breathing easier about our future retirement after countering the threat of a drop in benefits from the state’s strong public school retirement system and the attempt to force us into the federal Social Security system. ASHA assisted us in our efforts to maintain our ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   August 01, 2009
Missouri SLPs Win on School Retirement Issue
Author Notes
  • Brenda Martien, MS, CCC-SLP, vice president for school services of the Missouri Speech-Language-Hearing Association, can be reached at bmartien@centurytel.net.
    Brenda Martien, MS, CCC-SLP, vice president for school services of the Missouri Speech-Language-Hearing Association, can be reached at bmartien@centurytel.net.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Professional Issues & Training / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   August 01, 2009
Missouri SLPs Win on School Retirement Issue
The ASHA Leader, August 2009, Vol. 14, 48. doi:10.1044/leader.AN3.14102009.48
The ASHA Leader, August 2009, Vol. 14, 48. doi:10.1044/leader.AN3.14102009.48
School-based speech-language pathologists in Missouri are breathing easier about our future retirement after countering the threat of a drop in benefits from the state’s strong public school retirement system and the attempt to force us into the federal Social Security system. ASHA assisted us in our efforts to maintain our retirement security.
In October 2008, Missouri’s Office of Administration (OA), which coordinates and interprets federal Social Security Administration (SSA) regulations, informed all school districts about changes that would affect how certain groups of educators—including SLPs and audiologists—pay into the state public school retirement system (PSRS).
Public school employees in Missouri who participated in the PSRS have never paid into the federal Social Security system. A 1954 change in Social Security included public employees with another retirement plan, but only if their employers had signed a “218 agreement” allowing for exemption from SSA coverage; at the time the state’s agreement covered only nine school positions and did not list SLPs (who were included as “teachers”) and audiologists.
The October 2009 memo stated that educators not listed in the 1954 agreements would no longer be exempt from SSA withholding; SLPs and others affected by this change would be required to pay two-thirds of the PSRS withholding and 100% of SSA withholding, a total of more than 15% withheld from each paycheck. We would pay more and receive little benefit because PSRS benefits would be reduced and SSA benefits likely would be minimal because of a windfall elimination provision in the law.
As the word spread throughout the state, SLPs worried not just about their personal futures, but that this change could worsen Missouri’s already critical shortage of school-based clinicians.
We decided to take action. As the vice president for school services of Missouri Speech-Language-Hearing Association (MSHA), I notified the MSHA Executive Board and sent out the first of a number of listserv messages to MSHA members in early November. I contacted the PSRS, Missouri Retired Teachers Association, and Peggy Taylor, then president-elect of the Missouri School Board Association. “We will have quite a fight on our hands,” Taylor said. “But we can’t sit by idly. We must work together in one loud clear voice all across the state.”
We urged MSHA members to contact state and federal legislators and relevant agencies including OA and SSA. The MSHA Executive Board kept members informed of developments and what other state education groups were doing. A summary of the issue was posted on the MSHA Web site.
Support grew among the state education network. The Missouri Education Roundtable galvanized eight education organizations including principals, teacher unions, and administrators. The roundtable issued a resolution asking the IRS, SSA, OA, the state education department, governor, state legislators, and members of Congress to take action—to allow Missouri school districts to revise the original 1954 agreements in two ways: to reflect the current practice of exempting public school employees who have a state teaching certificate and who work 17 hours weekly on a regular basis; and to delay any decision relating to a change in SSA exemption status until July 2010.
In November, the OA exempted counselors from SSA withholding but stated that similar positions, including SLPs, were “not considered exempt at this point.” I immediately contacted ASHA to request support, and ASHA submitted a letter to the SSA opposing the changes. As the advocacy efforts grew, state and federal senators and representatives from Missouri met with representatives from the IRS and the SSA.
The SSA, IRS and the Missouri OA formed a task force and released a statement in April 2009. The task force recommended that full-time public school employees who are required to have certification by the state education department for their positions—including SLPs—will be exempt from SSA withholding.
Last fall the change in our retirement system appeared to be a foregone conclusion. The combined time and energy of the legislators, ASHA, the education groups, and MSHA members brought about this positive outcome. Missouri continues to have a strong public school retirement system, which is one reason SLPs choose public school practice in the “Show Me State.”
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August 2009
Volume 14, Issue 10