Dear Rep. Potter and Sen. Stephenson,
The Utah Speech-Language-Hearing Association (USHA) represents over 200 school-based speech-language pathologists in the State of Utah. As such, it is in purview to alert you to the extremely disappointing outcomes of HB0233.
While the bill awarded an additional $4,000 to our deserved special education colleagues, it failed to monetarily recognize speech-language pathologists – who are also paid out of Special Educational funds. This is perplexing as speech-language pathologists are required to hold an advanced degree and are autonomous experts in treating communication disorders (e.g. autism spectrum disorder, language impairment, stuttering, and feeding and, believe it or not, swallowing disorders).
We are certain legislators responsible for the bill failed consider the degree of expertise and commitment speech-language pathologists’ exercise each day. The degree of graduate training and clinical hours far surpasses requirements of many of our school-based colleagues. In addition the average caseload per speech-language pathologist is 70 students. This number represents students served and does not include work load duties such as assessment, screenings, meetings, and documentation.
The fact that HB0233 has overlooked speech-language pathologists is outright insulting to our hardest working school-based professionals whom many serve students in multiple schools in a given day. You may be unaware that the role of a speech-language pathologist is more involved that being a “speech teacher.” We work and build relationships with parents and caregivers, general and special education teachers, occupational and physical therapists, administrators, and those who work in Life Skills/Functional Skills setting. Speech-language pathologists provide a gateway to curriculum (and the world) for students who would otherwise be trapped in their thoughts and failures. Students with communication disorders speak and use language differently and only a specialized expert trained in evidence-based treatment practices is able to construct ways to adapt curriculum and standards for these students
Currently there is a dearth of speech-language pathologists in Utah. We (USHA Board members) have worked with speech-language pathology graduate programs within the state to better understand why many graduates prefer to opt for medical as well as out of state school positions. The response is typically the low pay offered to school-based speech-language pathologists in Utah.
By excluding speech-language pathologist in HB0233, legislators have sent a very clear message to some of the most dedicated, hard-working, and caring professionals in this great state: We do not value you. Please, we suggest you strongly reconsider the bill and include speech-language pathologists.
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter.
Eric Dutson, M.S., CCC-SLP
USHA Executive Board