Schools are experiencing a shortage of special education teachers

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IOWA — School districts across the state are facing staffing issues as the 2022-23 school year gets underway for most students.

From guard teams to bus drivers, the districts are trying to find a way to keep their staff full. One job listing has consistently topped the pack for most available positions: special education.

As of Thursday, the Teach Iowa Educational Careers Portal, the site lists 938 open special education jobs. The Johnston Community School District said it has more than a dozen open associate positions.

“So the number fluctuates, but as of today we need 17 associates, 14 of whom would work directly with special education,” said Lynn Meadows, district communications director. “Special education students have ‘IEPs’ or Individualized Education Plans and many of them require individual support from an educator.”

For the district, the challenge this summer has been hiring and retention. Meadows mentioned that the district held a hiring event over the summer where they hired several associates. These candidates then went to look for another job soon after or were promoted to another position in the district. Even though Johnston lost 14 associates at the end of the second day of classes, Meadows said the district is committed to giving each student the necessary one-on-one time.

“When we’re short-term paraeducators, everyone’s on the hook,” Meadows said. “We will definitely meet a student’s IEP, so if it requires one-on-one support, we’ll see who’s attending that day, which students and which teachers, and we’ll move people around to make sure every student gets that support. .

A student receives support at Hubbell Elementary School in Des Moines.

Colin Burhn has autism and has been in first grade for two days. WHO 13 News aired a special report in May on the state of special education funding and its impact on Colin’s educational journey so far. His mother, Kelly, spoke about the lack of a permanent partner just for her son, as required by his IEP. Fast forward to the start of the school year and Colin is off to a great start.

“I’m so happy to report that they’ve hired someone. They found a full-time associate for Colin this year,” Kelly Burhn said. “It’s only the second day of school and I already have success to report, which is amazing.”

Colin attended his very first morning meeting this week with his fellow freshmen. He also participated in specials during his first week, this one was an art class. These two tasks would not have been so easy for Colin if he had not had a full-time partner to help him.

And because of Colin’s early success so far this school year, it has reaffirmed Kelly’s desire to push for the resources needed to keep associates in school districts and in the state.

“And so, as parents, I know we’re just waiting for the funds and the support that we need to make sure our students get what they deserve,” Burhn said. “What I know just locally, you speak with your local legislature, make sure they know every dollar is going into student support. It’s essential and it’s going to be used to really help these children flourish.

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