Special education teacher employment began to decline in 2006, concurrent with increased paraprofessional employment. At the same time, the prevalence of students with disabilities in several categories changed substantially, and the proportion of students being served in general education settings increased as well. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the decline in special education teacher employment was related to increased paraprofessional employment, and if the increase in paraprofessional employment was related to shifts in the composition of students with disabilities, educational placements, or more general state-level factors. We created a panel dataset for 2006–2015 and analyzed these relationships using a two-way fixed effects model. We found that, although changes in paraprofessional employment were unrelated to changes in special educator employment, they were related to changes in the prevalence of students with autism spectrum disorder. In addition, states with larger populations and higher K12 expenditures employed more paraprofessionals.
Are Paraprofessionals Being Hired to Replace Special Educators? A Study of Paraprofessional Employment