November 8, 2021

Indiana offers scholarships to address special education teacher shortage

A new state program to address the special education teacher shortage will allow licensed teachers to enroll in free university training to earn a special education license to their credentials. - (Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)

A new state program to address the special education teacher shortage will allow licensed teachers to enroll in free university training to earn a special education license to their credentials.

(Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News)

Indiana will spend $2 million to help fully license special education teachers by offering scholarships for required training and streamlining required coursework, the state education department announced Monday. The program aims to ensure there are enough special educators when the state ends the use of emergency permits next school year.

The Indiana Department of Education will partner with the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning at the University of Indianapolis to assist teachers to get fully licensed or enter a program that qualifies them for a temporary permit under new state requirements. 

“Through this initiative, statewide partners are coming together to provide Indiana’s current and future special education educators with access to convenient, accelerated options and key financial support, so that they, in turn, can continue supporting our Hoosier students daily,” Indiana Secretary of Education Katie Jenner said in a statement. 

The IDOE announced earlier this year that it plans to end its use of emergency permits because issuing them is a longstanding violation of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The state will replace them with a new temporary license for educators in approved training programs. 

But Indiana faces a years-long shortage of special education teachers, and schools depend on educators with emergency permits to fill vacancies. The state issued 43 percent more special education emergency permits in 2019-20 than it did four years prior. Without them, administrators and teachers cautioned that students could suffer. 

READ MORE: No classroom. Missing friends. How the pandemic jolted Indiana’s special education students

The new program, known as Indiana Special Education Assisted Licensure, is designed to smooth the transition and increase the number of fully qualified special education teachers. It gives prospective special education teachers and district administrators a single place where they can find options for training, said Carey Dahncke, executive director of CELL.

"In most cases, it's either no cost or almost no cost for the teacher to complete their licensing and to become fully licensed as a special ed teacher,” Dahncke said. “In our mind, it is about not just getting more people into the field but getting more fully qualified people in the field.” 

Licensed teachers who wish to add a special education license to their credentials can get free training at three participating universities: University of Indianapolis, Taylor University or Indiana Wesleyan University. Full scholarships are available for people with bachelor's degrees who wish to become educators through transition to teach programs. Individuals already enrolled in special education teacher preparation programs are also eligible for scholarships to help them complete training.

read more: The special education system can be hard to navigate. Here’s what three Indiana families experienced

The program is especially focused on working with teachers who are already licensed in other fields and want to add special education, because the path to full licensure is shorter, Dahncke said. 

“We're trying to get as many people in the field as quickly as possible,” Dahncke said.

The program will also offer a free workshop for educators who have not passed the state licensing exam.

The $2 million effort is funded through federal COVID relief and Individuals with Disabilities Act funding.

Contact WFYI education reporter Dylan Peers McCoy at Follow on Twitter: @dylanpmccoy.

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