By Associated Press - Saturday, August 1, 2015

MASON CITY, Iowa (AP) - A shortage of special education teachers has left public school districts in northern Iowa struggling to fill those teaching positions, school officials say.

Enrollment numbers last school year show Clear Lake schools had 136 students receiving special education services, while Mason City schools had 508, the Mason City Globe Gazette reported ( ) Saturday.

Renee Denny, special education coordinator at Garner-Hayfield-Ventura High School, said she was shocked to only receive three resumes this summer for a special education position.

“Our program has a great reputation in the community and the area,” Denny said. “I expected to receive several more candidates.”

The school filled the position internally with a teacher switching from general to special education.

Pat Carlson, director of undergraduate education at Iowa State University’s School of Education, said there’s been a shortage of special education teachers statewide for years.

Several factors contribute to the shortage, she said, including district-level budget cuts, little spare time to complete required paperwork and veteran teacher turnover due to general education switches or early retirement.

“We think we have a handle on it, and then something else happens,” Carlson said of the shortage. “It’s not cut and dried, because a lot of things affect it.”

Since significant time is required to garner a special education teaching endorsement, courses are now often offered online, said Superintendent Anita Micich, who oversees Clear Lake and Mason City Schools. Micich, who has a master’s degree in special education, is encouraging general education teachers to take advantage of those online opportunities.

“I think everyone should teach special education at least one year or experience it student teaching,” she said. “I no longer assumed as much about what kids did or didn’t know when I was back in a regular classroom.”


Information from: Globe Gazette,

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