Indiana special education teachers must be fully licensed or meet new requirements for preliminary licensing after Indiana officials said the state has issued thousands of special education permits for emergencies that violate federal law over the past four years.
Indiana issued 43% more emergency teaching permits for special schools in 2019-20 than four years earlier, including teachers with emergency licenses for light interventions, intensive interventions, the deaf and hard of hearing, and the blind and visually impaired, WFYI-FM reported.
Federal law prohibits states from issuing emergency permits to special education teachers. The federal government has not penalized Indiana for breaking the rules.
State officials said they would stop issuing emergency permits for special schools next school year, instead requiring educators to have a full license or enroll in programs that culminate in a special school license. The districts were informed of the change in June.
The sudden change in policy is expected to put additional strain on Indiana schools, which are increasingly reliant on emergency permits due to the lack of special education teachers.
Schools use the emergency permits if they cannot find qualified teachers. Some of the emergency approved teachers are certified in other areas, others are not licensed in other areas of teaching and may not have teaching experience.
Of the nearly 4,500 emergency permits issued in 2019-20, more than a quarter were for special education, WFYI-FM reported.
School administrators said that while they agree that special education teachers should be fully licensed, some fear the new statewide policy could add large caseloads to already licensed educators or exacerbate teacher shortages in the area.
They also fear that barriers, including the cost, to obtaining a full license for teachers will lead to a reduction in the number of teachers in classrooms and an increase in the case burden for skilled special educators.