With an eye on improving services for students with disabilities, the U.S. Department of Education is funneling millions into programs to train new special educators.

The Education Department said this week that it is granting $12.8 million to university programs coast to coast to address anticipated shortages in the field.

The bulk of the funds — $9.2 million — are earmarked to help grow the number of “highly qualified personnel” serving students with disabilities in regular classrooms, special education programs, transition services and in early intervention, among other areas.

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Meanwhile, $3.6 million will go toward graduate programs to prepare individuals for leadership positions in special education. Such professionals are expected to be in demand in the coming years, the Education Department said, as a wave of college professors and school administrators retire.

“We must ensure that students with disabilities receive a world-class education and that their teachers are equipped to help them be successful,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “These grants support important projects in schools across the country to help students with disabilities reach their full academic potential.”

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