Specialized burnout: Sacramento schools importing Filipino teachers to plug special education shortage
Kids, parents suffer as districts scramble to address high turnover
As Sacramento-area schools reel from a nationwide shortage of special education teachers, one local school district is hoping to address the issue by taking its search global.
There are 30,232 special education students enrolled in Sacramento County school districts, according to the California Department of Education. The dearth of instructors to teach them is part of a national trend blamed on high burnout and fewer credentialed professionals in the hiring pool. And parents say it’s the students who rely on consistent classroom attention who stand to lose.
One class at Folsom High School was without a full-time special education teacher two months into the new school year. The array of substitutes brought in to fill the gap until a permanent replacement was hired left Kelly Supple’s son anxious. The 14-year-old has moderate autism and is nonverbal.
Supple, a credentialed special education teacher herself, said that when her son becomes nervous, he acts out by unraveling the threads of his knee socks. Sometimes, she said, he would arrive home from school with his picked-at socks unwound down to his ankles.
Supple said the Folsom-Cordova Unified School District eventually lured a special education teacher with three years of experience to her son’s school by offering a $10,000 signing bonus.
But a nationwide staffing shortage persists. Fifty-one percent of all school districts and 90 percent of high-poverty school districts struggle to attract qualified and credentialed special education teachers to fill these slots, according to the National Coalition on Personnel Shortages in Special Education and Related Services.
At Birch Lane Elementary School, part of the Davis Joint Unified School District, a special education teacher resigned just before the start of the school year. The job is now held by a former substitute teacher after the district failed to find a certified professional to teach moderately to severely disabled students in classroom.
DJUSD is coming up short even though administrators frequent recruitment fairs and nurture relationships with universities that turn out special education teachers. As a result, the district is planning to develop a student-teacher intern program to ease this crunch, according to DJUSD spokeswoman Maria Clayton.
Classroom consolidation is another tactic. DJUSD recently combined Birch Lane’s kindergarten-through-second-grade special education class with Pioneer Elementary’s third-through sixth-grade special education class.
“I think two classes of four kids that were more grade-level appropriate would have made more sense, Sacramento News & Review - Specialized burnout: Sacramento schools importing Filipino teachers to plug special education shortage - News - Local Stories - December 8, 2016: