Indiana legislators must address shortage of teachers

Indiana’s teacher shortage is real.

Don’t believe it? Call your local public school administrator to find out how many teaching positions are open, how many classrooms are being led by substitute teachers and how many are teaching using emergency permits. Too many students are in classrooms led by some who have no field of expertise or grade-level certification.

An adult leading a class is not enough. Every Hoosier kid deserves to have a credentialed, qualified educator teaching at the start of the school year.

The teaching shortage is a result of a variety of factors and impacts prospective, new and experienced teachers alike.

Fewer college students are enrolling in teacher education programs. In fact, enrollment in teacher preparation programs decreased 50 percent from 2009 to 2013.

Also, fewer initial teacher licenses are being issued; there’s been a 33 percent decline in the number of initial Indiana licenses issued from 2009 to 2015.

Increased teacher turnover is another factor and harms children and adversely impacts student learning. It also costs the state real money. The most recent data for Indiana estimated $45 million in taxpayer dollars for turnover costs.

So what can we do?

Policymakers can start by demonstrating their appreciation and support for teachers by taking action that includes professional input from those who make a difference in the lives of the more than one million students they serve statewide each day.

Honor the profession and pay teachers professional wages. There should be a locally-determined career ladder that recognizes teacher leadership and gives teachers a chance to stay in the classroom educating students while making a professional wage throughout their careers.

Create a program to support school districts in implementing research-based induction programs and to retain the quality teachers already in the classroom. Indiana needs to restore its funded mentoring program that includes mentor training and support materials.

So let’s stop debating the reality of a teacher shortage and take action.

We are asking the Indiana General Assembly, the Indiana Department of Education, the State Board of Education and Gov. Mike Pence to consider these ideas and listen to Indiana’s educators. Doing nothing is neither an option nor responsible governing.

Teaching is a powerful, impactful profession. Teachers are educating tomorrow’s artists, entrepreneurs, scientists and policymakers. Isn’t it time today’s lawmakers acknowledge the value of the professionals and demonstrate appreciation and respect by listening? The future of our state and our students depends on it.

Teresa Meredith is president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@