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Tennessee Department of Education Awards $1M in Special Education Additional Endorsement Grants

Tennessee Department of EducationNashville, TN – Today, Wednesday, July 15th, 2020, the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) announced the Special Education Additional Endorsement Grant, which will enable every public school district to provide at least one teacher with a special education endorsement (SPED) for free.

Eight SPED Additional Endorsement Grants, totaling $1 million, have been awarded to Educator Preparation Programs (EPPs) to deliver courses in a virtual environment.


With almost 200 seats available across five education preparation programs, each LEA is guaranteed at least one seat for an educator in their district to participate. Teachers must be nominated by the district to participate in the program.  

“This grant will help fill a need we have heard from districts across the state by ensuring more teachers can earn a special education certificate and help serve all students, particularly our most vulnerable populations, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “The department is committed to assisting districts fill these vacancies and grow their capacity to serve students with special needs.” 

This is the fourth grant made available in recent months by the department to support districts in serving students with disabilities, and specifically helps build critical staff capacity by providing a pathway for teachers to add special education endorsements at no cost to the district or educator. 

“In Tipton County, we are grateful for the opportunity to have a local educator participate in this program, free of charge, and address a critical need of serving our special population students,” said Dr. John Combs, Director of Tipton County Schools. “This is just another way the department is helping partner with districts to address vacancies and provide supports as we all prepare for the upcoming school year.” 

Educator Preparation Programs at the following universities have been awarded a competitive SPED Additional Endorsement Grant to provide the courses in a virtual environment: Austin Peay State University (APSU), Carson-Newman University, Lincoln Memorial University, Tennessee State University, and Tennessee Tech University. 

“We are pleased to partner with the state in providing quality coursework that prepares teachers to fill much needed places in special education classrooms.  Our state has done an excellent job of tracking data to determine district needs with regard to staffing, and they stepped up by providing a mechanism to help meet these needs,” said Dr. Kim Hawkins, Dean of School of Education, Carson-Newman University. “We received notification of this award on a Monday afternoon, and Tuesday morning, phone calls began to pour in from districts.  School systems are excited for this opportunity, and we are equally excited to be part of it.” 

Teachers participating in the endorsement program will receive services at no cost for tuition or fees, as costs for the program will be funded through the supplemental use of federal IDEA discretionary funds. Programming, which will all be done online, is set to begin this fall semester, with each EPP having differing timelines on implementation of the courses. 



The Special Education Additional Endorsement Grant is the fourth grant made available to districts specifically intended to help address special education needs during the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic.

This includes an additional $1 million IDEA Innovation grant to support districts in implementing innovative ways to remediate loss of instruction for students with disabilities, $5 million through IDEA part B funding formula to provide compensatory services, and a $1 million Technology Partnership Grant to address technology needs that are a result of COVID-19 school closures. 

For more information on these grants, and to access the Tennessee Department of Education’s guidance documents on school closures, visit our Coronavirus Resources page or Reopening Guidance page.


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