ESSA requirement for full certification of special education teachers deadline extended

On May 16, 2016, the Maine Department of Education (Maine DOE) posted a notice regarding the issue of full certification of special education teachers under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As the notice explained, ESSA amended the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act by reinstating a requirement that a person employed as a special education teacher in elementary, middle or secondary schools must have obtained full certification as a special education teacher. The teacher must not be working under certification requirements that are waived on an emergency, temporary or provisional basis. Maine schools were advised that effective July 1, 2017, the employment of a less than fully certified special education teacher would not be allowed.   

Since that time, the Maine DOE has worked diligently to resolve this issue in a way that allows schools to staff their classrooms, assists not-fully-certified teachers to become fully certified, is achievable, and complies with the requirements of the law. At the same time, the Maine Department of Education approached the federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) about its need for additional time to come into compliance. OSEP has granted that request, permitting Maine to have an additional year for this work. The ramification is that the information in the dispatch of May 16, 2016 in which we stated “. . . effective July 1, 2017, (SAUs) will not be able to employ a special education teacher who is not fully certified” is no longer applicable.

We will provide additional information as it becomes available. Questions may be directed to Janice E. Breton, Director of Special Services, Maine Department of Education (624-6676) or janice.breton@maine.gov.