State leaders hope new office will fill vacancies for special education teachers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The state has a plan to better support the 50,000 students in New Mexico who need special education services. 

Statewide, 28% of teacher vacancies are for special education. But state leaders hope a bump in pay and a few other initiatives from the new Special Education Office will change that.

“What we want to be able to do is make sure that when we have these teachers, that we’re able to recruit them and retain them for the long term,” said Dr. Arsenio Romero, secretary of the Public Education Department.

The state’s Office of Special Education isn’t even a week old and doesn’t have a director yet. But advocates hope paying highly qualified teachers more will help fill hundreds of special education positions statewide.

“This may surprise people that that’s not already happening,” said Katie Stone, vice chair of the State Developmental Disabilities Council. “We want to see our special education teachers who worked so hard to be rewarded for the extra efforts that they put in.”

The state has more than $103 million from the federal government to spend on special education.

New Mexico’s Public Education secretary says part of that money will be used to hire a wider range of professionals to better support students with special needs and their families.

“This is my 27 year, I’ve been a teacher, I’ve been a principal, I’ve been a superintendent,” said Romero. “I’m also a dad, and I have four kids, and one of my kids has autism.”

Because of his experience in the world of education, Romero says he sought after the best resources, programs and teachers for his child.

“Even in my place of privilege, I struggled through that. And so I know if I’m struggling through that, that other families across the Mexico have the same struggles,” Romero said. 

He says with the Office of Special Education, all the resources they need will be in one place to guide students and their families through elementary, middle, high school, college, and even the workforce, so they have a plan and support from cradle to career.

Another priority for the new office is better behavioral management.

“Reducing our use of physical manhandling of children to control behavior, the science is clear that once a school goes down that route with a student, it will recur,” said Stone.

The office will collect data on student discipline to ensure their safety and will also use data to determine whether more funding is needed to tackle these goals.

If you’re interested in more information on the director job for the state’s new Special Education Office, click here.

The PED secretary says he would like to fill that position before school starts back up in August.