Connecticut’s Strong Demand for Master’s Prepared Educators
The demand for master’s-prepared special education teachers in Connecticut has never been more apparent than it is today. Glastonbury Public Schools (GPS) provides a good example of this with its announcement about the employment of two staff in new positions to meet this growing need. GPS is getting a new supervisor for its expanding alternative education program as well as a new supervisor at Glastonbury High School.
Kathleen Johns-Galvin, the new supervisor of the alternative education program, earned her bachelor’s degree in special education and her master’s degree two years later, while Glastonbury High’s new supervisor, Frank Cipolla, brings with him a background that includes a master’s degree in special education. These examples of two professionals underline the importance of being prepared with an advanced foundation in theory and practice. The challenge to provide outstanding educational services to tens of thousands of special education students in the state demands those with the best qualifications.
According to the Connecticut School Finance Project, every day more than 68,700 public school students need special education services throughout the state. That represents 13 percent of Connecticut’s total student population, about 505,000 students. These special needs students include (figures from the US Department of Education):
- 21,006 students with a specific learning disability
- 9,948 students with a speech or language impediment
- 6,059 students on the autism spectrum
- 5,302 students with emotional disturbances
- 2,424 students with an intellectual disability
- 555 students with hearing impairment
- 151 students with visual impairments
- 101 students with traumatic brain injuries
How Special Education Funding Works in Connecticut
The recommended budget for the Connecticut State Department of Education in the 2016-17 school year was $7.06 billion. $6.1 billion of this comes from the state’s general fund, while $945.77 million comes from federal sources. Connecticut is one of only four states in the nation to not designate specific funds for special education. Instead it funds special education on an as-needed basis using grants and by maintaining a separate fund for excess costs.
For the 2016-17 school year the projected budget included:
- $4.29 billion for education equalization grants
- $279.6 million for student-based excess costs
Not directly funding special education has been the progenitor of strong debate for decades, even prompting a lawsuit heard in 2016 where a judge ruled the state must allocate its education funding more evenly. Suffice it to say that funding exists to support a broad range of special education programs in the state as well as a talented pool of special education teachers with many different areas of expertise. Depending on court rulings and legislative action, more funding may become available in the future.
A discussion about special education funding in Connecticut would not be complete without a mention of the American School for the Deaf in West Hartford. As one of the nation’s best known schools of its kind it also holds the distinction as being the oldest school for deaf students in the country. This school’s recommended 2016-17 budget is $21.3 million.
Strategies to Ensure the Success of Connecticut’s Special Needs Students
All of Connecticut’s students have a right to equal education access in the least-burdensome way possible. That means anyone with a disability – mental, physical, or both – is entitled to have their needs met to put them on an equal footing. Learning environments can range from normal classrooms to special education classrooms to specialized schools; whichever environment imposes the least burden on the student.
Connecticut’s master’s-prepared special ed teachers meet with students in programs like these:
Glastonbury Public Schools’ Special Education – Serving all of the Gastonbury Public Schools district, special education teachers in this division are responsible for ensuring any student with a disability that affects their access to the general curriculum is accommodated. These teachers are familiar with planning and placement team (PPT) meetings that involve a special-needs student, their parents, and relevant specialists. An individualized education plan (IEP) is established during the PPT meeting, whose outcome can include any of the following:
- Specialized one-on-one instruction or help in a general population classroom
- Social work counseling
- Psychological services
- Assistive technology
- Speech or language therapy
- Behavioral intervention
- Placement in on-campus and supplemental special education programs
Ädelbrook’s Learning Center of Cromwell – Approved by the Connecticut State Department of Education, this special education facility’s forte is in serving children on the autism spectrum aged nine to 21 years old. The center’s highly trained and educated staff work with students on an individual and group basis to address issues like academics and communication, as well as behavioral and social challenges.
American School for the Deaf in West Hartford – 2017 is an important year for this school as it celebrates its 200th year in operation. That makes two centuries of providing a quality education for students who are deaf and hard of hearing. Just like at any school, some students rely on special education teachers for help with learning challenges, behavior issues, autism, ADHD, and more. All teachers here are expected to be skilled in meeting the special needs of students who are deaf and hard of hearing. That means teachers here are deemed qualified in sign language and the use of adaptive technology, and with a specialized understanding of the many additional challenges that come with being deaf or hard of hearing.