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Kansas has come up short on educators statewide for the past few years. This shortage includes professionals such as speech pathologists and school psychologists. The shortage in educators such as speech pathologists has recently had an impact on Unified School District 475. 

The district has hired virtual therapists to try to fill the gaps.

However, USD 475 has come up short by four speech pathologists and two school psychologists right now, according to Executive Director of Exceptional Student Services Rebekah Helget.

At the recent Board of Education meeting, the district discussed how it might entice more speech pathologists and school psychologists to join its team. Tuition reimbursement was presented as an option.

In recent years, the district has offered a sign-on bonus of $1,000 to new hires in this department, in order to combat the shortage. However, the market for these positions has become so competitive that a $1,000 sign-on bonus isn’t enough. Tuition reimbursement programs seem to be more enticing. The BOE is also talked about increasing tuition reimbursement depending on how long a new hire was willing to stay. A payment of $1,000 would be offered to someone who wanted to stay in the district for one year. The payment would grow from $2,000 to $3,000 for a two-year commitment, and $4,000 to $5,000 for a three-year commitment. 

If the new hire didn’t uphold their side of the bargain, they’d find themselves paying the district back.

Finding people who can stay on for longer periods of time is integral for a military-impacted district such as USD 475.

Medicaid helps pay for related service providers — the category speech pathologists and school psychologists fall under — and the district brings in about $250,000 to $300,000 from Medicaid yearly for these services, Helget said.

The BOE voted five to six, with one against to approve offering tuition reimbursement to new hires in this department conditional on the length of time they stay with the district.

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