27 Feb Louisiana and Arizona Look to Address Special Education Teacher Shortage

February 27, 2017

By: Emmanuel Felton
Source: Education Week

Schools across the country have long struggled to find enough teachers trained to work with students in need of special education services. Lawmakers in two states are working to stem the shortages in their districts.

Arizona State Sentator Sylvia Tenney Allen has introduced a bill that would let any credentialed teacher in the state educate students with individualized education plans (IEPs). The bill, which won unanimous approval from the state senate and is now in the state house, has parents of students with disabilities worried.

“I think it’s a big mistake,” Debra Mergner, a Phoenix mother whose son has Asperger’s syndrome, told the Phoenix New Times. “A special-ed teacher has a unique tool belt that they wear for teaching because they understand the exceptionality of each student. Regular teachers don’t have that.”

The newspaper reports that while officials at the state education department share some of Mergner’s concerns, the department has taken a neutral position on the bill.

Meanwhile, state officials in Louisiana are asking the state’s teacher preparation programs to come up with proposals to increase the number of new teachers with special education certifications, reports The Advocate.

One possible solution might be found at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston. The university is located in rural northern Louisiana—an area where administrators have found it particularly difficult to attract enough special education teachers. At Louisiana Tech, all prospective teachers get a bit of special education training, reports The Advocate.

“We’re seeing more and more candidates who originally thought they only wanted to teach elementary education realize there are amazing opportunities to work in special education,” Amy Vessel, an associate professor at the school, told the newspaper.

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