NEWTON, Kan. (KSNW) — School is back in session. However, some Kansas districts are having a hard time filling their special education departments.

Several districts told KSN it has always been an issue to hire and retain staff for special education students. However, the pandemic made matters worse.

Brian Skinner has worked at Newton High School for 10 years. He is the special education department chair at the school.

He said pay is one of the main reasons for the shortage, “If we can’t defend them being able to get a livable wage helping our students in what we’re doing. It’s really hard for us to be able to bring in the support that we need.”

Skinner adding in that the shortage of paraprofessionals hinders how students can be served.

“The longer that ripple effect goes, the tougher situation a para is coming into because a student is that much further behind, and it’s harder, harder work to be able to get them caught up to where they need to be,” he said.

The Newton Board of Education approved a wage increase to attract and retain paras.

It’s not the only district getting creative to bring in help.

“We have those referral bonuses. We have retention incentive. As well as, specifically for our special education staff, we have education reimbursement for people interested to go into teaching,” said Dr. Tiffany Snyder, Director of Recruitment and Retention for Salina Public Schools.

Garden City Public Schools has tried recruiting bus drivers to work between pick up and drop off.
As well as education college students to be part-time paras.

“Just be flexible with them, and we will take any help at this point. Something is better than nothing.
We’re willing to take whatever we can get,” said Josh Guymon, Special Education Director for Garden City Public Schools. “Our kids can do, and they’re capable of doing just as much as anybody else’s kid. They just need a little bit more support to get those things accomplished.”

If you are interested in applying to be a para or special education teacher, Salina, Garden City and Newton all encourage you to apply.