Special Ed Teacher Shortage May Impact on Your Child's 2022/23 School Year
Special education teachers play an important role in the lives of students with special needs, helping them thrive academically and socially. But, the nationwide special education teacher shortage makes it difficult to ensure that our students get the customized attention they need in the classroom.
There are many reasons for the Special Ed teacher shortage that preclude the 2022/2023 school year including the recent pandemic. Some of these include Special Education funding which continues to be a problem for states as Congress is only providing about 15% of the funds needed to support the mandates outlined in IDEA. Likewise, IDEA reauthorization changed the learning disability identification process, which now requires higher qualification standards for special education teachers, stipulated that all students with disabilities participate in annual state testing.
While education leaders must address the special education teacher shortage if they hope to fulfill the promise of providing an equitable education to all by ensuring that schools have sufficient numbers of well-trained special education teachers on staff. If you have a child with special needs, it’s up to you to advocate for your child to ensure they receive a quality education tailored to their unique needs.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start, here some things you need to know about parents’ rights in special education and the special education process.
Ask how the school can include your children in regular school activities. Just because your child needs support in the classroom doesn’t mean they can't participate in art, music, or gym class. Don’t forget about things like recess and lunch or any after-school activities, either.
If there’s something you don’t understand about your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) as parents of children with disabilities, ask questions.
You have ten school days to sign the form, so take it home and review it thoroughly before agreeing to anything.
Ask for clarification about anything unclear so you know what you should expect for your family and your child.
Ask your child’s teacher for regular progress reports so you can determine if the current plan is working. If not, meet with the teacher to see what parts of the plan need to be adjusted.
If your child is having any problems or if you’re not happy with their assessment or placement, discuss your concerns with the school. Hopefully, you will be able to work out a resolution, but if you can’t, reach out to advocacy groups and other agencies for help in getting the changes you need.
Keep your own records. Write down any questions you have or comments you want to remember and keep track of all meetings and phone calls that have occurred regarding your child.
Make it clear to your child’s teacher, counselor, and principal that you want to be involved and are willing to help in any way you can. Creating an open and honest relationship helps improve communication and may make a difference in how well problems are resolved.
Also, make sure you speak to any professional from an outside agency working with your child. Ask them what services they provide and what you should expect to see in your child resulting from their teaching and services.
It’s helpful to follow up with your child’s teachers to ensure that everything is going smoothly. Reach out and ask if there are any growing concerns and what you can do at home to support the program at school.
Remember that your child’s education is a cooperative effort between you and your child’s teachers, counselors, and principal. If friction occurs and you cannot come to an agreement about how to proceed with your child’s education, ask for another meeting. Take time to gather more information supporting your wishes for your child, and allow the school to do the same. If you cannot agree to a second meeting, you have other alternatives. Ask for a mediator or request a due process hearing. Generally, no one wants it to escalate to that point, so try your best to advocate for your child and provide all the necessary information to support your opinion.
Bring as much information as possible to IEP meetings, including copies of your child’s medical records, records from any other schools, and test scores. It’s also important to let the team know about their real-life abilities, particularly their strengths, so that they can be worked into and supported by the plan moving forward.
It is also helpful to share the disciplinary measures you use at home that are effective with your child. The consistency between school and home will help your child adjust, and it will help the teacher quickly understand what does and does not work when discipline is needed.
It’s always good to have support from people who know the challenges that you’re facing. Parental organizations not only allow you to share your knowledge and benefit from the advice of others, but they can also be strong advocates who fight for you and your child when it’s necessary.