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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Special ed woes: Most teachers aren’t prepared

California has a “desperate” need for special-education teachers, said Michael Kirst, president of the state board of education, at an EdSource symposium in Oakland.

Most new special-ed teachers in California are not credentialed.

Special education in California costs more than $12 billion in federal, state and local funds annually, notes EdSource’s Louis Freedberg. The ’70s-era program is in “deep trouble,” Kirst said.

The state raised its standards for a special-education credential, he said. However it’s now time-consuming and expensive to qualify for a difficult job. That’s made it harder to attract and retain teachers, said Kirst.

Only 36 percent new special-ed teachers had a preliminary credential in 2015-16, according to the Learning Policy Institute. Sixty-four percent had intern credentials or short-term permits or waivers.

“We are begging teachers to go into the (special ed) classroom,” said Sanger Unified Superintendent Matthew Navo, reports Freedberg.

Some teachers leave the field because of the bureaucratic burdens on teachers to meet the requirements of special education laws.  “You get into it to work with kids with special needs and make a difference in their lives, but now 60 percent of your time is managing their paperwork,” Navo said.

San Francisco Unified and some other California districts are paying signing bonuses to special-ed teachers, reports Jill Tucker in the San Francisco Chronicle. “Labor unions — typically opposed to differential pay, bonuses or other compensation gimmicks — have given their blessing.”

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