July 30, 2015

Indiana Lawmakers Call For Study On Teacher Shortage

Indiana Lawmakers Call For Study On Teacher Shortage

Leaders of the Indiana Senate and House education committees are asking for a summer study committee to investigate the cause of reported teacher shortages and to devise a plan for how the next General Assembly can address the issue.

In a letter issued today they ask House Speaker Brian Bosma to assign an additional topic to the Interim Study Committee on Education.

“Earlier this month many Indiana news outlets reported on recently released data stating that licenses issued to first time teachers has declined from 16,578 in 2010 to 6,174 in 2014,” the letter reads in part.  “We have also been hearing reports that enrollment in Indiana’s schools of education has been declining significantly. Ball State has stated that enrollment in their elementary teacher-preparation program has fallen 45 percent over the last decade.”

The Indiana Department of Education reported this month that the number of licenses given to first-time teachers dropped by 63 percent since 2010. Teachers need multiple licenses to teach different subjects, such as math and physical education.

But at the same time, the number of individual teachers who received their first license from the IDOE fell by a much smaller amount -- from 5,599 teachers in 2009-10 to 4,565 teachers in 213-14. That is an 18.4 percent drop.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and House Education Chairman Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, wrote that “given the media reports and concerns that they have generated with school districts, we think it would be wise for the Indiana General Assembly to proactively address this issue.”

They are calling for testimony from experts and those teaching in local schools to explain why the enrollment at teacher colleges and licensures are dropping.

Behning said he's recently heard from superintendents in his district who are having trouble hiring teachers because of this shortage.

“They did say they’ve had significantly more difficulty getting, especially secondary, educators in STEM areas…but it is becoming a greater problem,” he said.

Gerardo Gonzalez, outgoing dean at Indiana University-Bloomington’s School of Education, told StateImpact earlier this month that low teacher pay is a factor why fewer students decide to pursue the profession.

“Teaching has never been a very lucrative position, but people can make a very good life doing something they care about and they can make a whole lot of difference in people’s lives,” Gonzalez said. “I think we need to set up the salary scales to show that teaching is a priority, that it’s a critical profession not just for local communities, but for the nation.”

The Interim Study Committee on Education is scheduled to meet Aug. 11, Sept. 8 and Sept. 29 to discuss: school testing and reporting requirements; special education; and whether the ISTEP program should be replaced with an alternative statewide assessment

Claire McInerny of StateImpact Indiana contributed to this report.

Contact WFYI education reporter Eric Weddle at eweddle@wfyi.org or call (317) 614-0470. Follow on Twitter: @ericweddle.

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