A shortage of special education teachers has school administrators in some areas scrambling to find qualified applicants.
This past summer, she had to find five special education teachers. Usually she has one or two openings in the 28 special education teacher positions in six schools. Finding five has been complicated, and has had an effect on the rest of the district.
Alden begged a retired teacher to return, but the school administrative assistant will need to help her with technology and paperwork. One of the teachers moved from the high school to middle school. Now all the high school teachers will take on one more class. Alden will be case manager for 15 students. Some students in the day treatment program will now be in the mainstream classes.
“There’s not one person in our district that won’t work harder because of this,” Alden said. “They will, because they want to do what is best for the kids. But we will all feel it.”
There are several reasons for the shortage. Fewer college students are graduating from education programs, thus they are not filling entry level teaching positions. Special education positions are often filled by entry level teachers. They move on after a few years, and turnover is high. Next year, federal rules will require that only fully certified special education teachers are hired. Teachers who are not fully certified in Maine can be special education teachers for up to three years while pursuing full certification.