Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Program Name

Public Administration

Capstone Instructor

Dr. Christi S. Bartman


The shortage of qualified special education teachers has long been established (Holdheide & Demonte, 2016). This shortage is further compounded by the small pool of potential candidates and concomitant factors influencing teacher recruitment in rural areas (Gagnon & Mattingly, 2014). The resulting effect of this climate is the need for many rural school districts to fill special education vacancies through contracted service providers. While contracting for special education services has become a widely-accepted practice, the process a district follows for making decisions about which services to hire as in-district positions and which positions are best filled through a contract relationship with a vendor is not well established. This project seeks to address the various factors districts must consider when contracting for services, prioritize these factors through the creation of a decision tree, and establish an objective process for determining when special education services are best addressed through an outside source. A survey concerning present use of contract special education personnel and associated impressions was created and distributed electronically to 12 special education directors serving school districts in northeastern Arizona. Survey data was analyzed and descriptive statistics calculated to provide insight into the contractual relationships between school districts and special education contract companies. The author applied the survey data to establish a simple protocol consisting of yes-or-no questions to assist the target school district in determining whether it is best to contract for services or advertise for an internal hire. The resulting decision tree serves as a tool which will allow district administrators to objectively approach the decision-making process while focusing on the most salient factors involved with such an important decision.



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