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Capo Will Use Salaries to Lure Rare Speech Pathologists

With outsourcing costs skyrocketing, official hope to attract—and keep—more of these specialists.

The is giving its speech pathologists raises but expects the move to save money by hiring more of the professionals in-house.

The board of trustees on Wednesday moved to give the speech pathologists their own salary schedule. Up until this month, the district had always tied speech pathologists’ pay to the teachers’ salary schedule.

The nation has been facing a shortage of speech pathologists since the early 2000s, according to a staff report prepared by Jodee Brentlinger, assistant superintendent of personnel services. There simply are not enough newcomers in the field to keep up with the number of open positions, the report said.

The government anticipates employment of speech-language pathologists to grow by 19 percent between 2008 and 2018. The demand comes from a wide age range—from more premature infants surviving to the aging of the baby-boom generation.

Speech pathologists, also known as speech therapists, work with children and adults who have conditions such as ear, nose and throat cancers, hearing loss and impairments, cerebral palsey and who stammer or stutter.

Because federal law require that students in need have access to speech pathologists regardless of the school districts’ ability to hire them, Capo Unified outsources the services when it doesn’t have enough speech pathologists on hand, Brentlinger wrote.

This year, the cost of hiring private speech pathologists has jumped to $814,524 from a cost of $232,000 during the 2009-10 school year, Brentlinger wrote. The increase came when the district went from having two open positions last year to 8.7 speech pathologist positions open this year. Three positions remain vacant.

“Higher educational systems continue to inadequately address or remedy the shortage of speech pathologists,” Brentlinger wrote. “Recognizing there are no short- or long-term solutions coming from those responsible for producing speech pathologists, it is incumbent upon the district to pursue more cost-efficient measures to provide such services.”

The very bottom-of-the-pay-scale speech pathologist will now earn $70,892, while the most experienced employees will earn $101,328 a year. Speech pathologists must have master’s degrees, complete 300 hours of supervised clinical practice in three different clinical settings, have 36 weeks of full-time, supervised practice and pass an exam before receiving their state licenses.

A first-year teacher with a master's degree starts at $56,148.

A group of speech pathologists present at cheered when the trustees unanimously approved the raises.

With its new salary schedule, the district is now prepared to recruit at an upcoming state convention for speech pathologists in Los Angeles.

The new salary schedule “will be a powerful tool as we actively begin recruiting at this state conference as well as retain our existing speech pathologists who may be lured away to other districts,” Brentlinger wrote.

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