Sometimes while reading the news, you come across a story you find amusing in its irony, but you cannot laugh because the subject must be taken seriously.
We Hoosiers have recently encountered such a story. Certain Indiana state legislators are seeking the formation of a study group to determine why there is a shortage of new teachers in Indiana.
These are the very same legislators who led the implementation of Indiana’s education reform laws. Either they are truly clueless, or they are looking for the proverbial scapegoat.
They don’t need a study group while a mirror is handy. With Indiana’s monetary surplus, they can certainly afford the cost of a study group. I, however, don’t like wasteful spending, so I am offering my free services to the legislature to advise it and the governor why we face this critical shortfall of new teachers. It boils down to three basic factors: shame, chains and money.
Teaching in Indiana is no longer a highly respected profession, but it should be. Beginning with Mitch Daniels and followed by the majority of Republican and some Democratic legislators, teachers were hit with a barrage of disrespect.
Daniels was the worst offender, implying that older teachers should be replaced by new teachers with no experience. Then, he made clear his belief that an education license and the academics behind it were unnecessary. Anyone, he said, who could pass a proficiency test on a given subject could teach said subject.
Now, I’d like to think I would make a good teacher, and a few years back I took one of the high school history exams and received a grade of 98 percent. But I doubt I could impart that knowledge to the students half as well as the teacher who received an education not only in history but in how to teach others.
The treatment of Department of Education Superintendent Glenda Ritz, by Gov. Mike Pence and also by the Republican-dominated General Assembly (whose members seem to believe Ritz was only elected by teachers), reveals a further degree of disrespect towards teachers.
Rather than looking to systemic problems, these officials blame our dedicated teachers. This disrespect for educators is also displayed by far too many parents who fight our schools on issues of discipline and make it difficult to retain children who are behind in their educational development. Everybody seems to know better than teachers.
Today’s teachers are fed up with the restrictive chains of rules and regulations. They often spend more time complying with bureaucratic paperwork than actually teaching. They are so chained to the enforced concept of standardized testing and teaching to the tests that they have been stripped of the creativity that very well may set them apart from other teachers.
Money, or rather the lack thereof, is the third factor that reduces the number of people entering the field of education. Teacher pay is comparatively low for the amount of education required. Pay levels are not keeping pace with the increased number of school days or even the increased number of hours that are now required for teachers to meet the bureaucratic red tape foisted upon our educators.
Furthermore, with the inadequate funding of so many schools (recent increases have not caught schools up to past funding levels), far too many teachers are spending their own money for classroom supplies.
It boils down to the fact that our best young minds can enter careers that pay far better, offer far more respect, and require far less bureaucratic and legislative interference than teaching our nation’s future leaders.
So to the legislature and to the governor I ask: Knowing now why we have a shortage, what are you going to do about it?
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield. Send comments to dr-editorial@ greenfieldreporter.com.