Thank you for your email. As you may know, the salary supplement bill I ran was substituted 5 times during the session and many changes were made. In the end, we have a salary supplement bill that will pay for degreed special education teachers only. This is what those in the state school system and the legislature asked for with this legislation, and it is the only way it would pass and become law. Your statement that the legislature does not value speech-language pathologist is incorrect and way off!
A salary supplement for special education has been tried several times in past years in the legislature, always unsuccessfully. The goal with this legislation was to incentivize special education teachers to stay in the classroom, as well as to encourage more college students and others to gain the education to become special education teachers. This is and has been for years an area where most districts cannot find, nor keep teachers. It is a critical issue in the State of Utah, as you can confirm with every school district in the state and with universities experiencing the extreme shortage of those seeking degrees in special education.
The legislature followed the criticality index from the State School Board and came up with the funding for special education only, as it was near the top of this list. This data is from the State School Board and with this data and the work I and others did, I received the support of the State Superintendent’s and State School Boards Association and the legislature. I had included math level 4 endorsements and computer science level 2 endorsements in my original legislation and they were cut due to the funding concerns.
We were trying to fix the critical shortage the state school system has in finding and keeping trained classroom special education teachers. This was a very detailed bill that took most of the session and various revisions to get the support of the state school system and the legislature. I think it will help to improve the lives of those special needs children with the variety of challenges they each have and give them a better opportunity to gain all the education and skills they can so that they can become as productive citizens as possible.
I appreciate all you do to help students with special needs and I know you are doing a critical and important job. I truly hope you and your teachers get the satisfaction from your job in seeing lives changed and improved. I’m sorry this bill doesn’t go far enough and address those teachers you work with, or many other teachers involved in teaching those students with special needs who don’t benefit from a salary supplement.
As a legislature, this year we worked hard to address the ongoing needs of public education. It isn’t enough, but we’re working on it. I look at this legislation as a step in the right direction for special education. I love special needs children and those who teach them. I wish you great success in your career in education.