Resolution 2018-02 Regarding the teacher of the Blind and mobility instructor shortage in Maryland

WHEREAS, Federal law  mandates that students with disabilities, including the blind, receive a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment and each student must have an Individualized Education Plan; and


WHEREAS, Maryland State laws require blind students be taught Braille, receive access to instructional technology, and be provided accessible textbooks and materials in a timely manner; and


WHEREAS, to meet the legal requirements, teachers of the blind must receive specialized training and experience in Braille, assistive technology, orientation and mobility, and other areas specific to the blind in order to become certified; and


WHEREAS, Maryland is experiencing a severe shortage of certified teachers of the blind; and


WHEREAS, this teacher shortage is expected to significantly increase in the next three years due to retirement of long-term teachers; and


WHEREAS, currently St. Mary’s County does not have a single teacher of the blind and more populated counties such as Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, and Montgomery Counties are contracting for services as a result of the teacher shortage; and


WHEREAS, there are no Maryland colleges or universities that offer certification programs in blindness instruction; and


WHEREAS, the closest academic programs for blindness instruction are at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, Salus University, and the University of Pittsburgh, which can be a deterrent to teachers and students in Maryland who are thinking of getting blindness certification; and


WHEREAS, the Maryland School for the Blind provides leadership and guidance to school districts state-wide in blindness education; and


WHEREAS, the State Department of Education (MSDE) is ultimately responsible for ensuring that blind students receive the educational services guaranteed to them by law; and


WHEREAS, in August 2002, as a result of the Aaron Richmond case, MSDE was ordered to create, or provide incentives for, training programs to alleviate the teacher of the blind shortage; and


WHEREAS, between 2003 and 2011 MSDE worked on the problem with little success, and from 2011 to the present MSDE has done nothing to solve the teacher of the blind or mobility instructor shortage problem: Now, therefore


BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland in Convention assembled this 10th day of November, 2018, in the city of Ocean City, Maryland, that this organization strongly urge the Maryland School for the Blind, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the Maryland Higher Education Commission to work with the National Federation of the Blind and the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to develop a realistic plan to eliminate the shortage of teachers of the blind and mobility instructors in Maryland.