Michigan Department of Education waivers give special education teachers more flexibility

Teachers certified in one area of special education will be able to work in other special education programs.
Published: May. 3, 2021 at 2:53 PM EDT
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UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WLUC) - Michigan schools are experiencing a teacher shortage. The state’s Department of Education is making it easier for schools to hire special education teachers.

Finding special education teachers in particular is becoming tougher each year, according to Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw Public Schools superintendent Christ Davidson.

“We have a lot that start in special education, then when the opportunity comes, they’ll transition back into the generalized classroom,” Davidson said.

At Gladstone and Rapid River Schools, superintendent Jay Kulbertis says they are experiencing teacher shortages across the board.

“There are more teachers retiring from the profession than there are graduating from teacher colleges, so supply and demand is kind of creating that crunch,” said Kulbertis.

With new waivers from the Michigan Department of Education, teachers certified in one area of special education will be able to work in other special education programs.

“There’s also a waiver that will allow someone who has a teaching degree to start work on this special education certification and teach in the special education classroom while they’re taking that coursework,” Kulbertis explained.

Davidson says the waivers will help schools that have been struggling to find ways to fill special education vacancies.

“Whether you’re driving up your teacher-student ratios or maybe plugging a gap with somebody that is very capable but doesn’t have all the qualifications to do so, you’re not getting the same experience always for your students,” said Davidson.

Kulbertis says hiring qualified professionals to work in special education classrooms is critical for students’ success.

“We need more bodies, but not just anybody,” he said. “We need bodies with the specific skill set. It’s not just the training, but it’s the education philosophy approach that says, ‘All students can learn.’”

Some schools are already applying for special education waivers. Kulbertis says a teacher at Rapid River Schools is currently in the process of completing the application.

For more information on the special education waivers, click here.

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