Teacher shortage could spell trouble

(Elkhart) Truth

If Indiana is heading toward a teacher shortage, it could spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E for the state.

The Indiana Department of Education reported that the number of first-time teacher licenses issued dropped from 16,587 in 2009-10 to 6,174 in 2013-14.

When there are more than 10,000 fewer teachers in a given year, a drop of 63 percent, something dramatic has happened.

It points specifically to fewer young teachers entering the profession. Enrollment in education programs at Indiana colleges and universities is down. At Ball State, it’s down 45 percent, according to a story from the Greensburg Daily News distributed by The Associated Press.

“We might not have the number of teachers that are needed to fill vacancies coming up,” said Denise Collins, associate dean of Indiana State University’s College of Education.

One superintendent said the pool of applicants has dried up. As teachers retired, school systems replaced them with younger, less expensive teachers. But that might not be as possible these days.

Teachers play a key role in the education of our young people. As we all know, some teachers are better than others, and getting rid of the bad ones can be a difficult chore for a school system.

But most people who enter the education field do so to make the world better. Why else would you spend your days trying to get a 12-year-old boy someone else birthed to speak respectfully and use proper grammar?

Sure, teachers get summer vacations, but for most it’s a respite from the long days in the classroom and then grading, planning and, in some cases, coaching. As school calendars change, that summer respite has become shorter and shorter.

The way the education system in the United States has changed, particularly in Indiana, means fewer people want to teach. The Indiana State Teachers Association said wages are stagnant but mostly blames education policies ranging from charter schools to A-F labeling and using test scores in teacher evaluations for lowering morale.

Like their students, teachers and schools need to be held accountable for the work they do. Parental involvement and income play key roles in student performance.

It’d be nice if there were a way they could be held accountable too rather than only denouncing the work of teachers.

How the state has handled education issues in recent years wouldn’t get a high grade, if even a passing one, but now it’ll have to figure out how to woo more teachers into the classroom. It’s time for Gov. Mike Pence and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz to stop bickering and work together and find a solution to this issue.

School districts will compete for teachers. That might raise wages. Superintendents might get creative in approaches to hiring. But that won’t immediately get more people to want to become teachers.

What will?

Maybe it’s time to ask our teachers that, then actually listen.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.