Wanted: more special ed teachers, apply everywhere

Wanted: more special ed teachers, apply everywhere

(Iowa) In what is fast becoming a national crisis, school administrators throughout the country are scrambling to fill special education positions even as some states move to create new incentives.

“We’re just not seeing enough special education endorsements coming in with teachers, especially at the secondary level,” said Anita Micich, superintendent of central Iowa’s Mason City Community Schools, in an interview with the Globe Gazette.

Officials in Arizona, Alabama and Washington state have made similar observations in recent weeks and the head of teacher credentialing in California called the shortage in her state a “five-alarm fire.”

A report in March from the U.S. Department of Education found few districts in the country that have not experienced some shortage of applicants for special education jobs during the past five years and put the current deficit of highly qualified instructors for students with disabilities at about 11 percent nationally.

Cecilia Johnson, who helps oversee teacher recruiting and certification for the Arizona Education Department said a combination of factors are driving the shortage – veteran teacher retirement, the low wage in some districts and the hangover from the recession.

“When you put all these things together, it’s sort of a perfect storm,” she told the Arizona Daily Star. “We do believe we are in crisis.”

The crunch comes as the economic burden posed by autism spectrum disorders is expected to climb from $268 billion in 2015 to $461 billion by 2025. The researchers noted that these estimates are conservative and, if ASD prevalence continues to increase as it has in recent years, the costs could reach $1 trillion by 2025.

“The current costs of ASD are more than double the combined costs of stroke and hypertension and on a par with the costs of diabetes,” said Paul Leigh, a professor of public health sciences at UC Davis who led the study, in a statement. “There should be at least as much public, research and government attention to finding the causes and best treatments for ASD as there is for these other major diseases.”

The outlook, published last month by the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, was based on data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education has made some effort to help train new teachers for working with SWD. A total of $3.6 million in grants will go to a number of universities to prepare graduate students for leadership positions in special education, early intervention and related services.

Another grant program will provide $9.2 million in funds to help address state-identified needs for highly qualified personnel in special education, early intervention and regular education programs that serve children with disabilities.

“We must ensure that students with disabilities receive a world-class education and that their teachers are equipped to help them be successful,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. “These grants support important projects in schools across the country to help students with disabilities reach their full academic potential.”

Among the awards:

California State Los Angeles, $250,000

University of Florida, $249,479

University of Central Florida, $240,883

University of Illinois, $249,936

University of Illinois, $247,798

University of Kansas Center for Research Inc., $250,000

University of Kansas Center for Research Inc., $249,976

University of Maryland, $249,998

University of Nevada, Reno, $248,811

University of Oklahoma, $250,000

University of Oregon, $248,937

Columbia  University of South Carolina, $208,620

University of Texas at Austin, $244,351

University of Utah, $242,367

Virginia Commonwealth University, $221,112