The United States special education program serves about 7 million students. This means that there are a lot of special education teachers needed for this country to run. That number is increasing and has been for a while. The funding granted to special education programs has also been increasing in the last few years.
Special education is an expanding and rewarding career, but passion doesn’t pay the bills, right? If you want to know what the average salary is for a special education teacher, keep reading. There are several factors that play into this, so we’ll explain everything in the paragraphs below.
Unfortunately, special education teachers are in very short supply. Every state but one is suffering from shortages in special education teachers. The only state that did not report a shortage was Oklahoma. This report was from 2011-12. A similar report from 2017-18 states that only 46 states reported shortages for special education teachers, and that one of them was Oklahoma.
Between these two reports, we can draw two major conclusions. The first is that the teacher shortage has been here for several years already. The second is that, if the crisis is even slowing down at all, it is doing so very slowly.
We may also be spending too little on special education. Many would argue that special education has never been a high priority in many school districts. Many are especially worried given recent political developments.
Many are questioning the qualifications and intentions of Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. She has said during interviews that she believes states should decide the rights of a special education student. While there is always a chance that states will rise to the occasion, many don’t believe this will be the case.
If there is any upside to all of this, it’s that special education teachers tend to get paid significantly more than general education teachers at the same grade level. This is true from preschool to high school.
Also, to help combat the teacher shortage, some states have instituted a debt forgiveness program. This program ignores student loan debt for students who study special education or another field where teachers are in high demand.
As a general rule, Connecticut and New York tend to be some of the highest-paying states in the country. The pay scale can be confusing because there’s no set rate. Most of it has to do with how much the state itself has and is willing to spend on education. Thus, teachers in poorer states tend to make less.
This is one of the reasons Oklahoma issued their debt forgiveness program. They didn’t have the money to raise the salaries of special education teachers.
The lowest-earning special education preschool teachers in New York will make about $60,000 per year. Compare this to Rhode Island, where the lowest-earning special education teachers will earn roughly $68,000 per year.
However, the top-earning special education preschool teachers in New York can earn nearly $89,000 per year, while the highest-earning special education preschool teachers in Rhode Island will only make about $76,000 per year.
Some states, such as Connecticut, have higher salaries across the spectrum. Others, such as New Mexico offer low salaries.
If this seems confusing already, it only gets more complex from here. Salary tends to fluctuate with grade level. For instance, a preschool special education teacher in Alaska will make at least $65,000 per year.
Meanwhile, an elementary school special education teacher in the same state will earn at least $75,000 per year. This drops down for middle school level teachers. It drops again at the high school level.
Washington drops about $1,000 from preschool to elementary school, and then another few hundred per year in middle school. However, a high school special education teacher in Washington makes at least $1000 more than preschool teachers.
Yet again, New York stands out. In New York, the payscale grows with the grade level, with the preschool teachers earning least and the high school teachers earning the most.
Area of Expertise
A common misconception about special education is that one special education teacher is enough to manage the whole classroom. The truth is that there may be a few teachers for a single classroom in a relatively small school.
With the population and our understanding of psychology advancing, it has become useful to specialize in a specific kind of psychological or developmental condition.
The current trend is to focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. For some reason doctors still can’t explain, there seem to be more confirmed cases of autism than ever before.
Most special education teachers tend to work with children whose disabilities are considered mild to moderate. This is considered less stressful than working with those whose disabilities are severe.
Special Education Teachers and the Perks of Being One
Being a special education teacher is a very rewarding career and a very important one at that. It gives you the opportunity to work with a great group of children and be there for people who unfortunately don’t have a lot of other people on their side.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the pay tends to be better than for most teachers.
If you want to know more about special education and its various ins and outs, please visit our site. We will tell you about some of the career options out there for someone with a special education degree. We will also help you learn about some of the best places to earn an online special education degree.