Pennsylvania Department of Education Offers $1.5M Grants to Create Career Pathways for Special Education Paraeducators

Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE)

PENNSYLVANIA — The Pennsylvania Department of Education is offering grants worth $1.5 million to create career opportunities for paraprofessionals in the special education field. Intermediate units that partner with community colleges and local education agencies can apply for the grant. The aim of the grant is to increase the number of practicing paraeducators that earn certifications, postsecondary credits/degrees, and PK-12 teacher certification in special education. The program includes academic support, networking opportunities, and mentorship from experienced special educators.

“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.

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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.

For more information on the Pennsylvania Department of Education, please visit PDE’s website

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