We must give all children a decent education regardless of their needs and talents. Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, a worrying trend is emerging in special education: a shortage of trained, devoted educators.
This deficit has far-reaching ramifications for our education system and the students who depend on these educators. In this blog, we will explore the root causes of the shortage of special education teachers, its impact on our communities, and how we can support this vital and often overlooked part of our education system.
Why Is There a Shortage of Special Education Teachers?
As a result of many causes, including:
- Low pay and high workload: Teachers in the special education field sometimes have a higher burden and are paid less than their peers, even though their children tend to have more complex needs.
- Lack of support and resources: Teachers in special education are often left wanting to receive the help and assistance they need to satisfy their students’ unique requirements.
- Difficulty in finding qualified candidates: Finding suitable applicants is challenging because there is a high demand for special education teachers but a small pool of candidates. This results in shortages in some locations. For more insights on the qualifications needed, check out this article on qualities that make a good special ed teacher.
- High attrition rates: Teacher burnout and turnover rates due to job stress and requirements.
- Difficulty in retaining teachers: Retaining teachers can be challenging in a particular education field due to a lack of funding, resources, support, and poor salaries.
As a result, schools and children who require specialized support and services face difficulties due to a shortage of special education teachers.
Special Education Teacher Shortage Statistics
The following statistics illustrate the ongoing scarcity of special education instructors in the United States:
- According to a survey by the National Council on Disabilities, 43 states reported a deficit of special education teachers for the 2019-2020 academic year.
- Over 100,000 special education teaching posts remained unfilled during the same year, indicating a nationwide teacher shortage.
- According to research by the National Council on Teacher Quality, there will be a shortfall of as many as 60,000 special education teachers by 2025.
- The shortfall is more severe in high-poverty regions, where many schools struggle to fill special education positions.
- In certain instances, schools have relied on long-term substitute teachers, para-educators, or teachers without adequate credentials to fill special education roles, which can severely influence the quality of teaching and support provided to students with special needs.
These figures illustrate the continuous difficulty of recruiting and maintaining qualified special education teachers and its impact on schools and students requiring specialized support and services. That’s why there is a special education teacher shortage in 2022.
Where Are Special Education Teachers Needed Most?
There is a national shortage of special education teachers. However, the areas with the highest demand differ by location. Here are a few examples of regions with a strong need for special education teachers:
- High-poverty communities: Communities with high poverty rates have a greater need for special education teachers since it is more difficult for schools in these regions to recruit and retain skilled educators.
- Rural areas: Schools in remote locations may find it more challenging to recruit and retain special education instructors due to a shortage of local employment and training possibilities.
- High-needs schools: Institutions with many students with special needs typically have a greater need for special education teachers.
- Urban areas: Large cities may have a greater need for special education teachers due to the higher concentration of disabled pupils in their schools.
- Specific subject areas: There could be a greater need for teachers with specialized skills and training in special education, particularly in certain subject areas such as mathematics and the sciences.
While these are some of the most pressing needs for special education teachers, it’s important to note that the demand for such experts can vary widely by location and over time.
What State Has the Highest Teacher Shortage?
As the deficit varies by location and evolves, it is impossible to establish which state has the most significant teacher shortage. However, the following conditions have typically reported higher teacher shortages:
- Arizona: For many years, Arizona has experienced a continuous shortage of teachers, particularly special education teachers. This is due to low teacher wages, a lack of resources, and challenging working circumstances.
- California: California is one of the country’s largest states, with many kids with disabilities, resulting in a strong demand for special education teachers. Due to low teacher pay, high housing costs, and other issues, the state has experienced a prolonged lack of skilled instructors.
- Texas: Texas has a growing population, and the state has battled a teacher shortfall, particularly a shortage of special education teachers, for decades. This results from poor teacher wages, a lack of resources, and the state’s rapid population increase.
- Colorado: In recent years, Colorado has had a scarcity of instructors, especially special education teachers, and many schools have struggled to recruit competent applicants. This is partly due to poor teacher pay, a shortage of resources, and the state’s competitive labor market.
These are some of the states that have historically reported greater levels of teacher shortages, including shortages of special education teachers. However, the situation can vary widely by location and evolve. The special education teacher shortage impacts 48 states.
Current Issues in Special Education
The field of special education is now dealing with several problems, such as:
- Funding: Poor funding for special education programs is a significant barrier to providing adequate services to kids and educators.
- Inclusion: There is constant discussion about the best way to educate students with special needs; some favor placing them in regular classrooms with their typically developing peers, while others believe they should be placed in specialized classrooms.
- Appropriate services: It can be challenging to get a consensus on what services and supports students with disabilities need, making it difficult to ensure that these students receive them.
- Teacher shortages: Shortages in general education instructors and special education teachers continue to be a severe problem that hurts kids with disabilities’ access to quality education and necessary services.
- Access to technology: As technology’s role in the classroom grows, so does the importance of providing students with disabilities access to appropriate assistive tools.
- Transition to adulthood: Since many students with disabilities need ongoing support and services, preparing them for adulthood and independence can be difficult.
Addressing these difficulties is crucial to enhancing results for students with disabilities, and they are among the most pressing issues facing the special education system. Those are the current issues in special education in 2022.
Jennifer Hanson is a dedicated and seasoned writer specializing in the field of special education. With a passion for advocating for the rights and needs of children with diverse learning abilities, Jennifer uses her pen to educate, inspire, and empower both educators and parents alike.