Educating students with special needs should be a top priority, yet critical shortages of special education teachers and specialized instructional support personnel (SISP) exist in all regions of the country. The demand for these highly qualified professionals is increasing at a time when the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the shortages are “acute.” These shortages, as well as unfunded positions, impede the ability of students with disabilities to reach their full academic potential and hinder the work of districts to prepare all students to be college and career-ready.
Reasons Personnel Shortages Exist
Personnel shortages are the result of recruitment and retention challenges. There is both a shortage of professionals to fill available positions and a shortage of positions to meet the growing demand for services for America’s six million children and youth with disabilities who receive special education services.
- Poor working conditions which lead to professionals leaving special education (e.g., excessive paperwork, unmanageable caseloads/workloads, inadequate support, professional isolation)
- Insufficient funding for incentive programs designed to entice new graduate students and support them as they gain professional training (e.g., loan forgiveness, personnel preparation grants)
- Fewer qualified faculty and increasing higher education costs
- Limited supply of qualified professionals willing to work in certain communities (e.g., rural, high poverty, high crime)
- Credentialing barriers in some states limit opportunities for re-specialization, re-licensure, or alternative routes to licensure of otherwise qualified personnel
- 49 states report a shortage of special education teachers and SISPs
- 12.3% of special education teachers leave the profession; nearly double the rate of their general education colleagues
- 82% of special education teachers and SISPs report that there are not enough professionals to meet the needs of students with disabilities
- 51% of all school districts and 90% of high poverty school districts report difficulty attracting highly qualified special education teachers
- 47% of speech-language pathologists report shortages in their schools
- By 2020, there will be a shortage of almost 15,000 school psychologists in the U.S.
- The 1:471 ratio of school counselors to students is almost twice the recommended ratio of 1:250
- The recommended ratio for school nurses is 1:750; state averages vary widely from 1:396 to 1:4,000
Statistics found in Special Education Personnel Shortages Factsheet.