Policy brief

California’s Special Education Teacher Shortage

Teacher Shortage PACE Policy Brief
Naomi Ondrasek
Learning Policy Institute
Desiree Carver-Thomas
Learning Policy Institute
Caitlin Scott
Learning Policy Institute


California is in the midst of a severe special education teacher shortage that threatens the state’s ability to improve outcomes for students with disabilities, who often have the greatest needs but receive the least expert teachers. To help policymakers address the shortage, the Learning Policy Institute conducted an analysis of the special education teacher workforce to provide an update on the shortage and its causes. We also reviewed the factors that may be contributing to special education teacher attrition, based on prior research and the perspectives of current special education teachers in California. We conclude with suggestions for evidence-based policy strategies aimed towards resolving the shortage.

This brief and report were updated on March 20, 2020.
Suggested citationOndrasek, N., Carver-Thomas, D., Scott, C., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2020, February). California’s special education teacher shortage [Policy brief, report]. Policy Analysis for California Education. https://edpolicyinca.org/publications/californias-special-education-teacher-shortage