Special Ed Teacher Shortage Continues to Worsen

By Emma Gibson 

The University of Arizona’s College of Education hopes its efforts to increase teacher numbers across the state will be enough to offset the number of teachers leaving or retiring from the profession. This challenge hits special education programs especially hard.

At a Tucson Unified School District job fair on Saturday, 27 percent of the district’s advertised positions were for special education teachers and teaching assistants. University of Arizona College of Education Dean Bruce Johnson said these positions can be hard to fill for several reasons, including burnout from the intense paperwork and regulation. 

“I do hear complaints from people about how much the job itself is not what they envisioned as being a teacher, because too much time is spent on that kind of burden,” said Johnson.

He said special education teachers sometimes deliberately let their certifications expire so they can no longer teach special education classes. Johnson said the emotional and physical toll of working with these children and their parents can also cause teachers to switch professions.

Kathy Hoffman, Arizona’s superintendent of public instruction, told the state House Education Committee that the general teacher shortage is a “crisis.”

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