Amid persistent staffing shortages, the University of Texas at Arlington plans to offer scholarships to special education teachers.

In total, the federal government provided $1.25 million in taxpayer money that the University of Texas will use to help encourage students to pursue degrees in special education. Students will have most of their expenses taken care of as part of the incentive.

The new program is hoped to incentivize Texans to pursue a career in special education. Helping cover part of the financial burden can purportedly make the career more appealing to aspiring teachers.

Known as Project READY, prospective students can apply online with a 1500-character essay. Throughout the five-year grant, 30 students will receive “nearly 100%” of their “tuition and fees covered,” according to the program’s website. Fees can include items like textbooks, accommodation, and childcare.

The lack of special education teachers has plagued the state for decades. In 2023, 702,685 students — or 13% of all public school students in Texas — were enrolled in special education programs. With roughly 370,000 teachers working in Texas, there are about 19 special education students for every teacher.

Project READY faces an uphill battle in the state. Last month, The Dallas Express reported that the Texas Teachers of Tomorrow (TTT) program was flagged by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for failing to meet minimum state certification requirements. TTT is a significant source of new teachers in the state, but deteriorating exam pass rates in the program mean it is at risk of shutting down.

Some, like Rep. Glenn Rogers (R-Mineral Wells), think TEA should be dismantled.

“The edu-crat crowd at the TEA has limited experience in actual classroom settings… And yet, they put themselves forward as experts for what our kids need,” wrote Rogers in a letter earlier this year, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Ambra Green, associate professor of special education at UTA, says many special education positions are now held by people without certification.

“They’re not getting the support that they need that’s also mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act,” she claimed, referring to the state’s special education students.