As thousands of California teachers face layoffs, there’s a new push to bring out-of-work general education teachers into the high-need field of special education.

The California Teacher Corps, a nonprofit which trains and places new teachers, is joining with school districts to launch a new program designed specifically to retrain laid off teachers to work with special needs students. Under the initiative, newly out of work teachers are put on the fast track to special education through an alternative certification program. Such teachers work toward their new credentials while also continuing daily classroom duties.

The path is a win-win for everyone, educators say, as more than 20,000 California teachers face layoffs ahead of the next school year. Teachers get to stay in the classroom and schools gain trained educators in a field that’s notorious for shortages.

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“By retraining teachers to shift to the in-demand field of special education, we are giving them the opportunity to continue to teach, while serving the students who need them the most,” said Catherine Kearney, president of the California Teacher Corps.

The concept isn’t completely new. Many of the 3,500 teachers certified for special education through alternative programs last year were former general education teachers who faced layoffs, Corps official say.