It is not news to hear about the teacher shortages affecting schools across the country. This issue was already particularly prevalent in special education programs for years – and the pandemic only made matters worse.
Parents of students with disabilities may be aware of the effects of these staffing shortages. It is difficult to advocate for your child’s education when factors outside of your control come into play. So, what are some of the critical issues parents should know?
Important note: This is a complex issue
First, parents must understand that the special education teacher shortages – and teacher shortages overall – involve various complex matters. The pandemic was only one. Salaries are another factor that many teachers cite. Therefore, finding a solution to the nationwide teacher shortage will require changes on many fronts.
This blog is not meant to cast blame anywhere. However, it is critical to highlight that staffing shortages do not mean a shortage of student rights.
Two rights to remember
There are two things in particular that parents must remember in these stressful times:
- Students have a right to a teacher: As National Public Radio (NPR) states, students have a right to have a fully licensed special education teacher under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). However, with staffing shortages, schools can hire individuals with provisional licenses who are actively seeking full licensure as special education teachers. This is the case for many schools across the country. State and federal guidelines allow this, and as long as these individuals adhere to individual education programs (IEPs), it ideally should not lead to concerns.
- Students have a right to services: In turn, schools cannot refuse services to students with disabilities because of staffing shortages. They have other options to provide related services to students, including partnering with public agencies in California that offer such services, whether that is physical therapy or audiology.
The situation as a whole may not be ideal for anyone involved, be that parents, students or teachers. Even so, it is still important to understand the rights your child has in school and find ways to protect those rights – especially in stressful conditions.