Fewer qualified speech therapists working in schools - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Fewer qualified speech therapists working in schools

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By Ashley Conroy - email

RANKIN CO., Miss. (WLBT) - The state is seeing fewer and fewer qualified speech therapists working in the school setting with children.

President of the Mississippi Speech Language Hearing Association (MSLHA), Suzie Rosser says it could be due in part because students can earn more working a private health clinic.

"When you've got a difference in pay of 25 to 35 thousand dollars and you've got 50 to 75 thousand dollars in student loans to pay," Rosser said. "Where would you go to work?"

On average, MSLHA reports students can earn up to $70,000 in their first year of work in a private health care clinic compared to around $35,000 in a school setting.

Rosser says for a Speech Therapist to be qualified they would need a bachelors and masters degree. "There is adequate academic preparation, there is adequate hands-on experience with a variety of different disabilities."      

Instead of pursuing further education, she says more students are looking for work right after graduation and getting an emergency certification to find a job.

Director of Special Education, Pam Harris at Rankin County School District says of the 30 speech therapists in their district, three are getting certified.

"There are limitations as to what they can do in terms of providing language therapy and doing some of the evaluations."

The Department of Education says that about 150 emergency certified speech therapists currently work at about 72 school districts. MDE says these students are expected to be fully certified by 2013.

Rosser says she would like to see students in public schools get the same service as in the private sector. "We want that main service to remain available in the public school levels."

Meantime, MSLHA says they will be working with MDE in a task force to figure out the best solution to getting more qualified therapists working in the school setting.

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