There are generally too many stupid education and special education stories these days to comment on them all, but this one is worthy of everyone's attention. My "The End of Special Education" series has gained a lot of attention since Betsy DeVos' confirmation hearing, so I'm taking it up again.
Arizona lawmakers want to do away with specially certified teachers for students with disabilities. You can read the article from the Phoenix New Times here. You can read the full text of the Arizona Senate Bill 1317 here.
The offending language, changing the law to allow non-special education certified teachers is:
INCLUDES INSTRUCTION THAT IS DELIVERED BY ANY PERSON WHO IS CERTIFICATED PURSUANT TO SECTION 15‑203 AND WHO IS DETERMINED BY A PUPIL'S INDIVIDUALIZED EDUCATION PROGRAM TEAM TO BE AN APPROPRIATE PROVIDER BASED ON THE PUPIL'S INDIVIDUALIZED NEEDS.Arizona lawmakers are giddy over this, however, IDEA (y'know, that pesky disabilities in education civil rights law the SecEd never heard of) clearly states that a teacher must be specially certified to teach students with disabilities. The federal law states (emphasis mine):
SEC. 612. [20 U.S.C. 1412] STATE ELIGIBILITY.
(a) (14) PERSONNEL QUALIFICATIONS.—
C) QUALIFICATIONS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION TEACHERS.—The qualifications described in subparagraph (A) shall ensure that each person employed as a special education teacher in the State who teaches elementary school, middle school, or secondary school—
(i) has obtained full State certification as a special education teacher (including participating in an alternate route to certification as a special educator, if such alternate route meets minimum requirements described in section 2005.56(a)(2)(ii) of title 34, Code of Federal Regulations, as such section was in effect on November 28, 2008), or passed the State special education teacher licensing examination, and holds a license to teach in the State as a special education teacher, except with respect to any teacher teaching in a public charter school who shall meet the requirements set forth in the State’s public charter school law;
(ii) has not had special education certification or licensure requirements waived on an emergency, temporary, or provisional basis; and
(iii) holds at least a bachelor’s degree..
(D) POLICY.—In implementing this section, a State shall adopt a policy that includes a requirement that local educational agencies in the State take measurable steps to recruit, hire, train, and retain personnel who meet the applicable requirements described in this paragraph to provide special education and related services under this part to children with disabilities.
I have no idea what in particular prompted AZ lawmakers to come up with this garbage, other than the usual reformy nonsense that regularly comes out of that state. Clearly, the wellbeing of students with disabilities is not anywhere on their list of priorities. This ranks up there with New Jersey's misguided attempt to lower the requirements of teachers and administrators who work in charter schools. Having teachers who do not know how to specifically address the needs of students with disabilities is no less than an attack on those students' civil rights. I hope parents and teachers push back hard on this. The children of Arizona deserve no less.
BTW, it's handy to have a copy of the law because you never know when the US Department of Education will have "technical" difficulties with only that particular education law's website for a couple of weeks. (To find a mostly complete mirror of the site from 2015 go here.)