Virginia SLPs Bring Caseload Reduction Campaign to State Capital Virginia clinicians recently took their caseload reduction message straight to the state capital, as ASHA’s State Education Action Team partnered with members of the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia (SHAV) for a Jan. 20 Lobby Day in Richmond. The day provided members a chance to meet personally with key legislators and ... School Matters
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School Matters  |   March 01, 2003
Virginia SLPs Bring Caseload Reduction Campaign to State Capital
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Practice Management / School Matters
School Matters   |   March 01, 2003
Virginia SLPs Bring Caseload Reduction Campaign to State Capital
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 1-19. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM2.08042003.1
The ASHA Leader, March 2003, Vol. 8, 1-19. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM2.08042003.1
Virginia clinicians recently took their caseload reduction message straight to the state capital, as ASHA’s State Education Action Team partnered with members of the Speech-Language-Hearing Association of Virginia (SHAV) for a Jan. 20 Lobby Day in Richmond. The day provided members a chance to meet personally with key legislators and urge them to support a proposed budget amendment asking for funding to reduce Virginia clinicians’ caseloads from 68 to 50.
Advocacy—in the form of letters and visits, in addition to Lobby Day—is now paying off for Virginia’s school-based clinicians. The budget amendment proposed by SHAV was introduced by Delegate Robert Tata (R-85th) in the House of Delegates, where it has been modified and included in the House’s proposed budget.
Judy Castleman, SHAV’s lobbyist, explained that the House took Tata’s original budget amendment, which asked for $8 million to lower caseloads to 50, and substituted language that was not tied so closely to a dollar amount.
“The House has included language in their budget that would require the state Board of Education to consider caseload standards for speech-language pathologists in its current review of the adequacy of the Virginia Standards of Quality,” said Jessica Jerome Norton, SHAV’s grassroots chair. “This means that the state Board of Education would be required to make a recommendation about caseloads to the General Assembly, so that they can fund it in the future.”
SHAV did not propose a companion budget amendment in the state Senate, Norton said, so the next step is a conference committee in which a small group of delegates and senators will “review both the House and Senate proposals and make the final decisions about what stays and what goes in the General Assembly’s final budget proposal.”
As The ASHA Leader went to press, the conference committee was convening and SHAV was focusing its efforts on communicating the importance of caseload reduction to committee members. “We have to get the Senate to agree to the language in the House’s proposed budget or it will die,” Castleman said, noting that, if and when the Senate does accept the caseload language, continued advocacy will be needed.
“Every opportunity to educate legislators about speech-language pathologists is important,” Norton said. “When legislators understand our efforts to help children in the public schools and the workload issues related to our jobs, then they will understand why a caseload of 68 is not reasonable. We need to tell them and we need to be persistent.”
Lobby Day
Several SHAV members, including President Mary Jo Grote and President-Elect Sarah Peters, traveled to Richmond to participate in Lobby Day and advocate for reduced caseloads for Virginia’s school-based SLPs. The 13 SLPs were joined by Castleman and Susan Karr of ASHA’s State Education Action Team.
Lobby Day began with a briefing and breakfast with Castleman, during which the group reviewed strategies for meeting with legislators, current bill proposals, and the proposed budget amendment. Wearing SHAV T-shirts and “Listen Up! We Have a Lot To Say” stickers, the group then walked to the Capitol to meet with key legislators and legislative assistants, asking for their support for the House budget amendment. The SHAV members also took a brief tour of the Capitol, sat in on an Elementary and Secondary Education subcommittee meeting, and observed a General Assembly session, where they were formally recognized by Delegate Karen Darner.
Darner has a keen understanding of the SHAV members’ message—in addition to her position in the Virginia House of Delegates, she has been an SLP in the Arlington (VA) Public Schools since 1971. The 66 students currently on her caseload range in age from 4–11, but Darner said she prefers not to dwell on the numbers “because then I realize how ‘up against the wall’ I am in scheduling and providing each child with an appropriate therapy model.
“The groups have become too large now and a little too diverse in their strengths and weaknesses,” she continued. “SHAV has persevered on the issue of realistic caseloads and has developed good legislative contacts to work with throughout the year. This has really helped make a difference.”
Virginia clinicians interested in learning about what they can do to support the caseload reduction campaign should visit SHAV’s Web site at http://www.shav.org/ and check out the “Legislative Activities” section. In addition, members of the SHAV advocacy committee will be giving a presentation about their ongoing advocacy efforts and future plans during SHAV’s 45th annual conference, which will be held March 20–22 in Richmond.
Virginia is one of five states partnering with ASHA’s State Education Action Team, which was developed as part of ASHA’s 2001–2003 focused initiative on school-based programs and services. While efforts in Virginia and Kansas, the latest state to partner with the team, are focused on reducing caseload size based on total workload, the State Education Action Team is supporting efforts in three other states—Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and West Virginia—to pursue salary supplements for ASHA-certified, school-based clinicians.
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March 2003
Volume 8, Issue 4