Michigan Department of Education assists schools amid special education teacher shortage

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) is assisting local school districts amidst a special education teacher shortage.

“There is a critical shortage of special education teachers in many Michigan school districts,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice in a press release.

“Allowing for some flexibility will help districts better staff their classrooms and meet the needs of our students with disabilities.”

As part of the state’s “Top 10 Strategic Education Plan,” the state aims to increase the number of certified teachers in areas suffering the most from the special education teacher shortage.

To mitigate the shortage, the MDE has administered a waiver application program that will allow school districts to hire more full-time special education teachers and reduce the use of substitutes.

“Often, ISDs and districts must rely on substitutes to educate students with the most significant educational, functional, and behavioral needs. These substitutes, while generous with their time and passion to support students, lack the necessary education and pedagogical knowledge to adequately teach students in need of specialized instruction and support,” said Kanika Littleton, project director for the Michigan Alliance for Families and a parent of a student with disabilities.

“These waivers will provide the needed flexibility to allow students access to trained, qualified special education teachers and are a critical step in improving outcomes for our students.”

The waiver program will give school districts the ability to place special education teachers in any special education program, regardless of their area of endorsement.

“We believe this limited waiver, relative to endorsement, will maximize a district’s ability to fill vacancies with special education teachers instead of relying on substitutes,” said Abby Cypher, executive director at MAASE.

“We share the department’s passion for having the most highly qualified educators in our classrooms, and we appreciate the recognition of the flexibility needed to accomplish this during this time of critical shortage in the field.”  

The waivers are in effect for one year with the option to renew if the school “is able to demonstrate the intent of the rule can be addressed in a more effective, efficient, or economical manner, or that the waiver is necessary to stimulate improved pupil performance,” said the MDE in a press release.

“The ISD or school district must also be able to demonstrate unsuccessful attempts to fill an open special education position with a properly endorsed special education teacher.”

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