Hey there everyone,
If you are a school-based OT or PT, please read this article to the end! This is important all who feel that they can do more for their school and/or district.
If you are a teacher, administrator, parent, or any other stakeholder in special education, us service providers would greatly appreciate your support in this journey we are on by asking your legislators to support AB 2386. Please read on for more info on what that is.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the Occupational Therapy Association of California (OTAC) annual Spring Symposium. I have been to several OTAC annual conferences, but this is the first symposium I have attended. It was much smaller - around 500 OTs, COTAs and OT students - and had a much more intimate feel between the luncheons and smaller total area to mingle within.
One key vibe present all weekend long at the conference was the need for OTs to advocate for our profession. Not only at the state level, but also at the larger national level and the smaller individual organization level. This vibe that entranced the conference has lead me to share this with you all.
The content in this article directly relates to each and every School-Based OT in California. It also indirectly relates to all School-Based OTs not in California as I know there are other states that are working on similar legislative actions or thinking about similar actions.
What I am referring to is the School-Based OT and PT Credentialing Initiative, also known as Assembly Bill 2386, or AB 2386 for short.
Over the recent years, OTAC has worked closely with California Assemblywoman, Blanca E. Rubio to introduce AB 2386. This bill, if passed, would slightly change the wording in the California education code (EdCode) to allow for OTs to obtain a "services credential" within public schools.
Why do OTs need a service credential, you ask?
Currently, in California, school districts employ OTs mostly to service student with special needs. There are some progressive districts out there that understand how beneficial OTs are too general education students as well and bring on more OTs to assist that population. However, many districts contract out for OT services from a non-public agency, such as The Stepping Stones Group. Others contract with a company like Presence Learning for online based OT services.
California schools also currently have no idea how to classify OTs and PTs who work in the districts. In California, OTs and PTs may be hired on as a "Classified" staff member which puts them into the California School Employees Association (CSEA) union with almost all school employees other than teachers, SLPs, and administrators.
Teachers are dubbed "Certificated" staff along with speech therapist, adapted PE teachers, and most program specialists. There are some districts that put OTs into this classification despite OTs not having a credential like teachers and SLPs do.
The last most common classification of OTs and PTs hired by public schools here in California is under the "Classified Management" classification. This is what classification I am currently under in my district.
The two reasons I have been told by people at my district why I am considered classified management are because 1) I don't have a teaching or other related credential and 2) the classified work/pay schedule doesn't make sense.
So here's the kicker, for the first two years of working in my district, I was fine with being considered classified management. I even thought it was pretty cool to have the "management" part in there. BUT! I was stuck there! I began to enjoy facilitating IEPs (I know, I'm weird) and I became interested in program specialist and special education director/coordinator positions, but I lacked this little paper called a credential and was thus ineligible to even be considered for these positions
The same is similar for nearly every school-based OT in California at this time. Despite have a similar amount of education, an OT or PT is ineligible to become - say a Special Education Director- no matter how much they know and understand about the special education system. Neither can we become a program specialist or coordinator who works on behalf of the Special Education Director. SLPs do have the option to apply for these positions because they must obtain a "Rehabilitative Services Credential" in order to work as a school-based SLP.
Quick case example: Say your district wanted to create a special education coordinator of therapy services position and you were interested in this job as an OT or PT. In order to be eligible, you would first have to obtain a credential by going to school full time for 2 years including an unpaid internship. Then you would have to teach for 5 years in order to become eligible to go back to school for another year to get you Administration credential. Then, 8+ years and thousands of dollars later you could apply for that coordinator position.
When AB 2386 is passed, we could essentially cut out 7 of those 8 years and the additional student loans. Not to mention, I think us OTs and PTs would make pretty darn good administrators in some of the aforementioned roles.
We Need to ACT NOW!
So, it is quite a big deal right now for school-based OTs and PTs here in California. OTs, PTs, and their respective California associations (OTAC & CPTA) are currently working to get this passed this year!
SO WHAT'S THE HOLD UP?
Two things, mostly.
1) We are not making a big enough splash in the ears of the people that have the decision-making powers (Legislators)
So, now it's time to speak up if you think OTs should be credentialed within schools. Call or email your local representatives, you can find them here
Once you are on their site, just click "contact" and shoot them an email. It's really simple. They may not get back to you, but someone in their office will mark down that a constituent wanted this to be passed. And every email adds up. (Not sure what to write? You can use my example below)
Also, another group of legislators to contact are those on the Committee on Education. These are the legislators who will first hear AB 2386 and determine its future. Email them as well!
Here is what I just sent to my Assemblyman. Feel free to copy and make it your own.
I want to first say thank you for your service as part of a school board member and the Ca. Physical Therapy Board. My email today relates directly to both of these areas.
My email today is in regards to AB 2386 which I hope you will support. AB2386 supports Occupational and Physical therapists being credentialed in public schools.
I am a School-based Occupational Therapist that feels as though I am undervalued within the school system and I believe that I have much to offer that I cannot because I do not possess a credential. AB 2386 would change that and implement a system for which OTs and PTs would become credentialed similarly to Teachers and Speech pathologist in schools.
As an OT, I attended 6 years of university schooling with many of the same core classes as a teacher, Speech Therapist, or school Psychologist, yet I do not have the same status as they do within a district. Occupational Therapists have played an instrumental role in developing today's special education and as a credentialed employee, we could do even more to support students with and without special needs.
Thank you again for your openness to support OTs and PTs. If ever you should have any questions about an Occupational Therapists role within schools, you may contact me at any time.
Jayson Davies, M.A., OTR/L
2) The California School Employees Association (CSEA), the union that represents most non-teacher employees in the state is afraid of losing the dues a small minority of school-based OTs are paying as part of that union.
To help alleviate this concern, reach out to your districts CSEA union reps and the local CSEA office and let them know how you feel about AB 2386.
I have not yet reached out to my local CSEA office, but it is my intent to do so before the end of spring break. I hope you will too. It is especially important for you to reach out to them if you are not part of their union. Let them know that you would like to be credentialed and that it will have no effect on your partnership with them and the union members.
Alright, well I have left you with some actionable step you can take right now, and they only take about 5 minutes. So please, if you have ever thought about the "What ifs" at work, help out and send an email or make a quick call.
Thank you everyone for reading through this one. If you read all the way through, you are super awesome.