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Benson & Mukherji Bill to Require Special Education Coursework in Teacher Preparation Programs Clears Panel

Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji sponsored to help increase the number of educators in New Jersey qualified to teach students with autism gained the approval of an Assembly panel on Thursday.

“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.

The measure also would direct the New Jersey Board of Education to develop autism spectrum disorder requirements under the “Students with Disabilities” endorsement that would better prepare the holder to teach special education students with autism.

Under the bill, in addition to the content areas that the teacher’s endorsements authorize, the holder of a “Students with Disabilities” endorsement also may provide consultative services and supportive resource programs, including the modification and adaption of curricula and instruction, to students in preschool through grade 12 who have autism.

“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 legislation was advanced by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.