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Oregon: OP ED slams emergency hiring of SPED teachers; "shortchanging thousands"

Apr 13, 2023, Seattle, WA, Investigate West: Schools Hiring Emergency Teachers For Special Education, Potentially Violating Federal Law

More than 130 emergency licensed teachers are filling in as special education instructors in Oregon this year, shortchanging thousands of students and potentially violating a federal law.

That law, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act, ensures that children with disabilities are given an appropriate public education equal to that of their peers without disabilities, including equal class time and access to qualified teachers.

But an emergency teacher in Oregon doesn’t have to meet the high standards required by federal law for special education teachers, who must have a bachelor’s degree and full state certification to teach special education, or be in the process of receiving certification while enrolled in a special education degree program.

The state is responsible for ensuring the law is followed. But Oregon education officials appear to be shirking that responsibility.

Officials at the Oregon Department of Education and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission, which licenses teachers in the state, said they don’t know whether the 131 emergency special education teachers working in schools are on a pathway to full licensure, the Oregon Capital Chronicle found. In a joint statement, the department and commission said school and district administrators are responsible for ensuring teachers are qualified.

But the law states that state educational agencies must establish and maintain qualifications to ensure that teachers are appropriately and adequately prepared and trained, and that they have the knowledge and skills to serve children with disabilities….

…And the state cannot waive special education requirements on an emergency basis, the law says.

The state has relied more heavily on emergency licensed teachers since COVID, the Capital Chronicle reported in August. The latest public records it obtained focus on emergency licensed teachers who are filling in as special education teachers. They show that the 131 emergency instructors teaching students with disabilities represent a quarter of all emergency teachers working in schools.

The state has 2,005 full-time special education teachers who are assisted by 23,000 support staff. Most support staff are not required to have special training, and they are not supposed to substitute for licensed special education teachers.

With 80,000 students with disabilities in Oregon, it’s possible that thousands of students with disabilities are not getting access to qualified educators equal to their peers without disabilities. …


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