ANOTHER VIEWPOINT: ‘Adjunct’ teachers bill sidesteps primary issues

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Anderson Herald Bulletin

Legislation that would enable public school districts to use “adjunct” teachers is a Band-Aid approach to addressing Indiana’s shortage of educators.

What Hoosier schools really need is a comprehensive and aggressive plan to bolster pay while liberating teachers to take ownership of their classrooms and providing them with adequate support.

Instead, Senate Bill 356 treats the symptoms, not the disease.

The Senate passed the bill Feb. 1, but the 31-18 vote indicated bipartisan concern. Eight of the 39 Republicans in the chamber’s supermajority joined the 10 Senate Democrats in voting against the legislation. The bill is now in front of the House Education Committee.

State Sen. Shelli Yoder noted the state already has multiple pathways to teacher licensing, including the transition to teaching program for professionals. She expressed concern SB 356 would be yet another way to put people without practical experience as teachers in front of students.

“There is a difference between an expert chemist and being able to teach in the classroom,” the Democrat from Bloomington said. “There are not enough guardrails here.”

Calling the bill a union-busting ploy, the Indiana State Teachers Association testified against it in front of a Senate committee. Under the legislation, adjunct teachers wouldn’t qualify for state retirement benefits.

The author of the bill, Sen. Linda Rogers, R-Granger, countered that the legislation would give districts needed flexibility to cover classrooms.

“A current shortage requires schools to rely on substitute teachers, (information technology) teachers and emergency permits to fill our classrooms — many with just a high school education,” Rogers said. “We have to start thinking outside of the box when faced with critical issues like teacher shortages.”

Thinking of creative ways to address the teacher shortage isn’t a bad approach, but the legislature’s focus should be on reshaping the teaching experience in Indiana’s public schools.

Often, young teachers who leave the profession and veterans who retire early are discouraged by low pay, an institutional focus on teaching to standardized tests, lack of support in the classroom and, most recently, legislation that would limit their discretion in use of source materials and creation of lesson plans.

In that vein, Senate Bill 356 doesn’t offer anything substantial to deal with the core factors driving the teacher shortage, namely the recruitment and retention of professional teachers in Indiana public schools.

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