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Indy nonprofit focuses on special education teacher shortages, licensing

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Monday marked Day 1 of a plan to increase special education certification in central Indiana.

While there are teacher shortages across the board, special education is also feeling the impact.

Children with disabilities are falling farther behind. SpedActs is a new nonprofit focused on helping people with a passion for special educating. They’ll help them receive the licensing they need to teach special education in Indiana.

The founder says Aug.1 is Day 1 for the first cohort with many kicking things off in urban school districts.

Schools around central Indiana are already in session and working around a mass teacher shortage.

“There’s always been a shortage; however, COVID-19 impacted the field,” SpedActs founder Sheri Anderson said.

Anderson has worked in special education for over 30 years, and her passion for the work sparked a new idea. SpedActs is a nonprofit aimed at helping special education hopefuls earn state approved licenses to teach.

“You can be an individual who has a bachelors degree in something other than education, and have decided now that your calling is to teach and particularly teach students with disabilities,” Anderson said.

The agency received state approval in April. Rolling out its first cohort Aug. 1, participants are working primarily in urban school districts around central Indiana.

“For all students we are trying to play catch-up,” Anderson said. “It’s just unfortunate that some kids with disabilities that catch-up is almost like two years, as opposed to a few months or even a year for some of their peers.”

She says the COVID pandemic had devastating impacts on students across the board but particularly minority and low-income students, and pupils with disabilities.

Anderson says there’s an ongoing debate, but believes for years there’s been an overrepresentation of students of color in special education. So, this work is to not only recruit talented teachers but also expand the teachers of color pool.

“While in Indianapolis I have made at a point to give back to urban schools,” Anderson said.

SpedActs for now is only training people who already work at a school, essentially providing on-the-job training.