In The Politics of Autism, I write about special education and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Across the country, there are shortages of professionals in the field.
In 2018, federal regulators ordered the state to stop capping the number of children who could receive services and to ensure all kids with special needs are identified.
Already, the Texas Education Agency has seen the number of students tested for special ed services soar by 56%, to 138,000 evaluations in 2018-19.
But no region in Texas has enough licensed school psychologists to meet national staffing recommendations and keep up with that kind of demand.
Statewide, there’s only one licensed school psychologist for about 2,800 students, though national guidelines say there should be about one for every 500-700 students.
The shortage leaves current school psychologists with heavy caseloads, according to Stephanie Barbre, who works in the Lubbock area and is the incoming president of the Texas Association of School Psychologists.
“The only ones that got somewhat close were in the Austin and San Antonio areas,” says Barbre, who’s crunched the numbers for a statewide journal.
She says it’s worst in East Texas where 31 districts don’t have any licensed school psychologist on staff.
Many advocates, psychologists and administrators say the key to the workforce shortage lies on college campuses, though again there are challenges. One issue: A master’s degree to become an LSSP [licenbsed specialist in school psychology] is longer than a typical master’s. It generally takes someone studying full-time three years to graduate. Another issue: Colleges often have small school psychology programs that don’t always get much promotion to undergraduates.