Document Type

Policy Brief


Institute on Disability, University of New Hampshire and University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies

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Abstract/ Summary

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), our nation’s special education law, ensures special education and related services to children with disabilities. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (PL 94-142) was created in 1975 to ensure that children with disabilities are able to access free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE). This act was reauthorized as IDEA in 1990. One in every seven students in the United States receives special education services through the IDEA, requiring a large, highly qualified special education workforce to support students’ rights to FAPE. Highly qualified personnel provide specialized instruction, positive behavior support, and interventions targeting specific areas of development, which help students with disabilities make progress on their annual Individualized Education Plan (IEP) goals. Without a highly qualified workforce, children with disabilities cannot access and participate in their education or make significant progress in targeted areas of development, leading to detrimental effects on their learning and education. Special education personnel shortages and attrition rates also negatively affect access to FAPE for children and youth receiving special education services – a civil protection under the IDEA. These shortages are directly related to inadequate pay and training which, in turn, leads to difficulty in recruiting and retaining interdisciplinary IEP teams. The most vulnerable, including children with disabilities, children of color, and children living in poverty are disproportionately impacted by teacher and staff shortages, deepening inequality among the nation’s youth.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

2022-2023 Cohort of New Hampshire-Maine Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (NH-ME LEND) Program Trainees. (2023, April). Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Workforce Shortage (PDF). [Policy Brief]. Durham: University of New Hampshire; Orono: University of Maine Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.



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