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Minneapolis: District has 18% of students in SPED; in recent years rate has "soared"

Sept 9, 2018, Minneapolis Star Tribune: Minneapolis Public Schools scramble to fill special-ed staff vacancies http://www.startribune.com/minneapolis-public-schools-scramble-to-fill-special-ed-staff-vacancies/492818791/ With one of the largest special education programs in the state, Minneapolis Public Schools has recently announced that it’s grappling to fill vacancies for special-ed teachers and assistants. In the past several years, the number of Minnesota students needing special-ed services has soared, while the shortage of teachers and aides to instruct them has become more pronounced, according to a 2017 report released by the state Department of Education. Almost all states across the nation are struggling with shortages in special education staff. The shortfall in Minneapolis, Superintendent Ed Graff said, stems from the strong labor market and a high number of special-ed assistants leaving the job just before schools opened this year. Minneapolis began the new school year with fewer than 10 special-ed teacher vacancies, a significant improvement from previous years, district officials said. But Graff said he is concerned about vacancies among assistants, especially in high schools that serve students with severe learning disabilities. ... The supply and demand for instructors are not matching up. There are about 545 full-time special-ed teacher positions and 570 full-time assistant positions. The district has 6,385 special education students, which is 18 percent of the district’s overall student population…. Londel French has been working for two years at Harrison Education Center in Minneapolis, where most students have severe behavioral and emotional needs. His duties range from academic support and de-escalating student aggression to assisting staff. Recently, French made the difficult decision to not return to his job, which pays between $17.15 and $21.36 an hour. “I don’t want to go back there because I don’t feel safe,” said French, who said he was assaulted by a student and later suspended.