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Benson & Mukherji Bill to Require Special Ed Coursework in Teacher Preparation Programs Continues to Advance

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji to help increase the number of educators in New Jersey qualified to teach students with autism continues to advance in the Senate with recent approval by the Senate Education Committee.

“New Jersey has one of the highest autism diagnosis rates in the nation, and we must work to ensure that every child with an autism spectrum disorder has access to an appropriate education,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This legislation will help educators in our state better address the specific needs of children with developmental disabilities so that these students can reach their full potential.”

The bill (A-2888) would require all teacher preparation programs, in addition to any other requirements adopted by the State Board of Education, to include a minimum of six semester credit hours in special education or the equivalent in clinical experience, including student internships in special education.

The measure would also require, in addition to any other requirements adopted by the State Board of Education, that the preparation program for an instructional certificate with a teacher of students with disabilities endorsement must include credit hours in autism spectrum disorder.

“Educating children with autism may require, for example, special attention to certain social and behavioral differences from other students. In order to develop the individual strengths and natural talents of their students, it’s important that teachers receive the proper training,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson).

“By providing educators with a pathway to shaping classroom learning on behalf of students with autism, this bill reaffirms New Jersey’s commitment to making sure all children have the opportunity to learn in an environment that suits their needs.”

The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly on June 25. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate.