Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Schools can expect to spend twice as much on providing special education than on general education, and there is growing evidence that districts have begun dealing with those costs by drafting farm team players—Teach for America recruits—to be special education teachers. The Network for Public Education reports that in many districts, “including NYC, raw TFA recruits are assigned to special education classrooms almost exclusively –because this is the biggest shortage area.” Eighty percent of TFA’s NYC recruits in 2010-11 were working as special education teachers. In Philadelphia, 46 of 213 corps members taught special education students in 2010. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), special education teachers must be “highly qualified,” which means having a bachelor’s degree and obtaining state certification or being licensed as a special education teacher. Given the number of schoolteachers out of work after education budget cuts in New York and Philadelphia (and all over the country), is TFA these school districts' best option for dealing with a shortage (assuming, for the sake of argument, that two major metropolitan centers could not train or recruit certified special ed teachers) or simply the cheapest? More importantly, are these districts acting legally without proof that special education teachers are otherwise unavailable?