Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists Vital to Education

Katie Cohen

Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists based in schools are vital to improving the communication of students from early childhood through graduation.  These unsung heroes are communication professionals who work with students who have communication disorders as well as students with multiple disabilities to give them equal access to public education.  Their work encompasses helping students gain communication skills that will boost their success in classroom activities, social interactions, literacy, and learning.  

Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists deserve to be recognized  as highly qualified professionals. Many of these professionals have earned a Certificate of Clinical Competence through the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.  In order to complete this certification, they must earn a Masters degree from an accredited university, perform 1600 hours of supervised clinical experience, pass a nationally recognized exam, and earn 30 continuing education hours every three years.  This Certificate of Clinical Competence is similar, but not synonymous with the National Board Certification for Teachers. Both the Certificate of Clinical Competence and National Board Certification for Teachers are programs that encourage professional excellence, and successful attainment of these credentials signifies mastery in the candidate’s respective professional field.  

Currently, nine states provide a range of salary supplements to school-based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists who hold a Certificate of Clinical Competence.  For example, Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists in Delaware public schools who hold their Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association receive a salary supplement equal to 6% of their annual salary.  These supplements are a means to attract highly qualified communication specialists to work in public education rather than working in the medical field where they could potentially earn double the pay. Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology is a high-need career in public schools, so in addition to having to compete against the private sector, there is stiff competition among states to attract talented professionals.  

During the 2010 KY legislative session, House Bill 376, also known as the Salary Supplement Bill, was passed and subsequently signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear. This law allows school-based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists possessing a Certificate of Clinical Competence from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association to be given a salary stipend of $2000, which is equivalent to the stipend received by teachers earning National Board Certification.  This salary supplement is intended to help Kentucky attract and retain the best communication specialists to our public schools.  

Unfortunately, the Kentucky General Assembly passed the Salary Supplement Bill without providing funding for local districts to offer the stipends in the 2010 and 2012 budgets.  In 2014 funding for the stipend was included in the budget drafted by the Kentucky House of Representatives, but was then removed by the Senate. This important legislation remains unfunded to this day.  While the law allows local school boards to provide this stipend to qualified employees, it does not require them to do so. Without state funding, most districts have declined to offer the stipend. In the 2019 legislative session, Representatives Regina Huff, Larry Elkins, Kelly Flood, Ruth Ann Palumbo, and Phillip Pratt introduced House Bill 168, which would require local school boards to fund the annual supplement to qualified Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists.  This bill passed unanimously out of the House, but died in the Senate.

The Kentucky Speech-Language Hearing Association,  along with their affiliated Kentucky Advocacy Network, and Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists across the state worked tirelessly during this legislative session to gain support for the supplemental salary stipend.  In recognition for the efforts, Governor Matt Bevin signed a proclamation designating May as Better Speech and Hearing Month in Kentucky. 

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, roughly one out of every twelve children ages 3 – 17 in the US suffers from a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing, but only 55% of those children receive intervention services from a Speech-Language Pathologist or Audiologist.  The services these professionals provide are essential to our students’ growth, learning, and well-being. It is crucial for our legislature and our local school boards to fund salary stipends for highly qualified Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists in order to attract and retain the best and brightest practitioners to Kentucky’s public schools.  

Please consider taking a moment of your time to reach out to your legislators by phone, email, or face-to-face in support of school-based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Ask legislators to include funding in the budget to follow through with the commitment made to school-based Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists by the Kentucky legislature in 2010.

Visit http://www.lrc.ky.gov/ to find your Senator and Representative.

Send an email.

Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-372-7181 and dictate your message to a friendly operator.

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