PA Ed Dept announces $1.5M in new grant funds to boost number of special ed teachers

15 June 2023- The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) today announced that $1.5 million in grant funding is available to establish or expand opportunities for practicing paraeducators in Pennsylvania schools to become special education teachers at no cost while actively learning and working in their school.

“One of the most efficient ways we can create a robust pipeline of high-quality educators is by allowing paraprofessionals to earn credentials while they’re already working in the classroom,” said Acting Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin. “These individuals serve their students and their communities every day and have the skills, passion, and purpose to transition seamlessly from paraprofessional to educator.”

The grants will create new special education career pathways for paraeducators; increase the number of practicing paraeducators earning certifications, and/or postsecondary credits/degrees; and increase the number of practicing paraeducators pursuing PK-12 special education teacher certification through enrollment in a PDE-approved special education PK-12 certification program.

Intermediate units (IU) that partner with at least one community college located in Pennsylvania and at least one local education agency (school district, approved private school, career technical education center, charter school, cyber charter school, or chartered school for the deaf or blind) may apply for the grant. 

IU grant recipients must design and deliver a program to ensure paraeducators within their IU region can participate in networking with other paraeducators, receive academic support, attend courses at no cost, and obtain advanced Credentials of Competency for Special Education Paraeducators in Pennsylvania and/or associate of arts degrees. They must also partner with at least one community college to design and deliver a program to ensure completion of all required program competencies within a two-year period, provide instruction through a combination of in-person and virtual options to meet the needs of paraeducators working full-time, and establish or expand credit for completion of program competencies fulfilled on-the-job. Finally, grant recipients must partner with one or more schools in the IU region to provide paraeducators with mentoring by experienced special educators during the school year and provide scheduling flexibility to allow time for coursework during the school day. 

Applications must be submitted by 11:59 PM on Friday, August 11, 2023. Applicants may request up to $50,000, and funding for each successful grant application will be available until December 2025.