In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Public schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia report teacher shortages in math for the 2017-18 school year, according to the US Department of Education. Forty-six states report shortages in special education, 43 in science and 41 in foreign languages.
Jennifer Palmer reports at Oklahoma Watch:
Oklahoma schools started the school year with more than 500 teaching vacancies, but special education is the most difficult to fill, according to a recent survey of 300 districts by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. Some districts report special education teacher vacancies year after year.
The shortage of special education teachers is a nationwide problem. It is likely compounded in Oklahoma by the state’s comparatively low teacher salaries, although state law requires that special education teachers receive a salary of 5 percent more than general education teachers. Forty-six states, including Oklahoma, reported shortages in special education for the 2017-2018 school year; math and science are also hard-to-staff areas.
High turnover is driving the special-education teacher shortage. Special education teachers tend to leave the classroom at higher rates than general education teachers, and they burn out quicker, research has shown. Coupled with the normal teaching demands is a grueling amount of paperwork and meetings required by federal law.
But the shortage is a pipeline issue, too. Federal data show students graduating with teaching credentials in areas like early childhood and elementary education far outnumber those credentialed to teach students with disabilities. The University of Oklahoma, for instance, graduated six special education teachers in 2015-2016, compared to 69 in elementary education. Keeping those graduates in Oklahoma is an even bigger issue: More than half of OU’s spring teaching graduates accepted jobs out of state this year.