FORTVILLE, Ind. – Even though the school year has already started in Indiana, some school districts are still working to fill special education jobs.

“It’s continually gotten harder and harder to find quality teacher candidates,” said Jack Parker, superintendent of the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation.

As the Mount Vernon school district has grown, so has the need for special education teachers, Parker said. The district has 32 special education teacher positions, but two of those remain unfilled, he added.

“We are all pitching in and supporting those students; folks are taking on some extra duties,” Parker said. “We’re taking care of them in some creative ways at times.”

Mount Vernon isn’t alone. Indiana’s online education job board shows more than 400 special education positions are currently open statewide.

The shortage is affecting students and parents, like Erica Hahn and her son Spencer.

“We have an entire new team from IPS (Indianapolis Public Schools) this year that has no idea of him, his strengths, his weaknesses,” she said. “They’re trying to get up to speed.”

Some Indiana teachers are on temporary licenses to teach special education. State leaders have launched new initiatives to help more teachers become fully credentialed.

The State Board of Education has now approved 15 transition to teaching programs specifically for special education, which is up from seven programs one year ago, according to Holly Lawson, spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Education.

More than 500 teachers have taken advantage of a free program through the University of Indianapolis, exceeding its goal since it launched last fall.

“Special ed’s been a high needs, hard to staff position within schools for well over a decade,” said Carey Dahncke, executive director of the Center of Excellence in Leadership of Learning (CELL) at the University of Indianapolis. “Unfortunately, we don’t see the problem going away anytime soon.”

With state lawmakers set to work on a new state budget in a few months, some school leaders like Parker say they hope to see more help from the Statehouse.

“We do have to raise teacher pay,” Parker said. “The job becomes more and more challenging as the diversity of needs of our students continue to grow.”