Seattle, WA: Paras to fill gap in SPED teacher shortage

Aug 21, 2017, Seattle Times: With principals in ‘crisis mode,’ new Washington state law taps into thousands of potential teacher recruits The Washington Legislature this year agreed to help principals struggling with a teacher shortage — especially in special-education classrooms — by tapping into a deep recruiting pool of thousands of paraeducators who already work with at-risk students. In Washington state, one in five principals last fall said they were in a “crisis mode” as they tried to find enough teachers to fill every classroom. ... But a new state law may offer principals some relief by tapping into a deep recruiting pool of thousands of educators who already work with special-needs and other at-risk students. “As a future workforce of teachers, this is kind of a gold mine,” said Cathy Smith, a paraeducator who has worked for 20 years in Olympia schools. About 27,000 para-educators work in schools across the Evergreen State, according to the Public School Employees of Washington (PSE) union. And paraeducators cover a wide variety of essential classroom duties: instructional assistants, teacher’s aides, library technicians, preschool caregivers and more. ... Under the law, a new state board will help expand community-college programs that connect a two-year technical degree for paraeducators to a four-year teaching degree that includes certification. Five colleges already received approval to do just that: Centralia, Grays Harbor, Highline, Pierce and Yakima Valley….