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A2017-04: Regarding the Alarming Shortage of Qualified Teachers of Blind Students and Orientation and Mobility Professionals

Adopted in: 2017

Topics: Education

WHEREAS, the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division has responsibility to monitor and ensure that blind students who attend public schools or the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind that work with teachers of the blind/visually impaired (TBVI) and/or certified orientation and mobility (O&M) specialists receive the appropriate level and amount of services as determined by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) teams; and

 

WHEREAS, blind students often rely on these individualized, specialized services in order to fully benefit from a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment that is comparable to their sighted peers; and

 

WHEREAS, currently, Minnesota TBVI and O&M instructors serve an estimated 1,650 students on their caseload, according to the “Students Who are Blind or Visually Impaired Fiscal Year 2016 Report to the Legislature;” and

 

WHEREAS, the legislative report further finds that TBVIs represent the  highest percentage  of shortages among teachers in Minnesota; and

 

WHEREAS, this TBVI/O&M specialist shortage in Minnesota prevents blind/low-vision students from receiving the frequency of instruction required to advance academically and gain the independence skills needed to compete; and

 

WHEREAS, one-third of current TBVIs are expected to retire in the next two to three years without the needed number of professionals to replace these retirees, causing a critical shortage of TBVI/O&M specialists in Minnesota that will have a devastating impact on the education of blind students; and

 

WHEREAS, no university training program exists within Minnesota to train qualified professionals to enter this ever-diminishing workforce; and

 

WHEREAS, even if a university program is established in-state, several years will be required to develop and begin the program, followed by several more years before graduates of the program will be available to provide services to blind students; and

 

WHEREAS, professionals who hold the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) have the expertise using proven methods of instruction to teach blind/low-vision students the skills needed to achieve age-appropriate independence in cane travel, but this certification is not consistently accepted in this state as a qualification for teaching blind/low-vision students: Now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in Convention assembled this twenty-second day of October, 2017, in the city of Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, that this organization call upon the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division to recognize the National Orientation and Mobility Certification (NOMC) as an accepted certification that qualifies professionals to teach orientation and mobility to blind/low-vision preschool through school-age students in Minnesota; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the MDE Special Education Division to work with the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota to develop new and/or partner with available TBVI and O&M university training programs to provide high-quality, flexible programming that will enable Minnesota to immediately address the alarming shortage of professionals with expertise needed to provide crucial instruction to blind/low-vision students in Minnesota; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization call upon the Minnesota Department of Education Special Education Division and Minnesota school districts to develop partnerships with training centers and qualified contract staff who can provide instruction to blind/low-vision students during the school year and through Extended School Year (ESY) services in order to meet the instructional needs of students as outlined in their annual Individualized Education Programs.

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