Teacher Shortages in Indiana Are No Surprise…to Teachers
A recent Indiana Department of Education report shows the percentage of all teachers getting a teaching license fell by more than 50 percent from 2009 – 10 to 2013 – 14. The report reflects nearly a 19 percent decline in the number of licenses issued to new teachers during the same period.
Legislative leaders have requested a special interim study committee meeting, tentatively scheduled for Monday, Oct. 19 at 1 p.m. to discuss the shortage.
Let’s get this out of the way first—how about a meeting when teachers could actually attend and testify about their own experiences as teachers?
That, in a nutshell, reflects in large measure what has gone on in Indiana—a fundamental failure by policymakers and partisan appointees to recognize and respect both the collective and individual expertise, experience, value, and dedication of Indiana’s teachers.
Nobody—including the Indiana State Teachers Association—believes that there is one singular reason for the shortage. And nobody—especially the Indiana State Teachers Association wants a shortage.
But to engage in such selective revisionist history as to refuse to even acknowledge that some of the top-down, our-way-or-the-highway changes that have been made to both the climate and the economics associated with K-12 teaching and learning have not played a part is, well, just partisan and convenient.
The harsh realities of teaching today include:
- Teachers may have an idea what their beginning salary might be, but they have little expectation of knowing what their career salary will look like. Salary schedules offered that roadmap. The decline in new licenses is screaming here. The state took control of the operating expenses of public schools and then took control of doling out vouchers to private schools, and then kept expanding funding to charter schools creating new small bureaucracies of funding—all without commensurate increases in funding. Something had to give. Maybe, just maybe, what “gave” were students going into teaching.
- Teachers are annually evaluated under state law in significant part based upon their student’s standardized test scores. Speaking of these tests, teachers watched the emphasis on standardized testing explode to the point of incredulity. Students, teachers, schools, districts, whole communities are labeled.
- The impact of teachers’ collective voice as professional teachers in a school system has been narrowed to a few salary and wage issues and muted when it comes to the very things that brought them into teaching in the first place—with regard to the learning conditions of their students.
- Teachers watched a state superintendent of public instruction who came up through the ranks of teaching be lambasted and her office statutorily weakened for no other reason than her priorities differed.
- Teachers waited to receive their “performance” stipend well past six months after the school year in which they earned it and will likely wait again due to more delayed test scores. And if a teacher happens to retire, even though he or she helped earn the bonus, the teacher won’t get it.
- Teachers watched the annuity rate on their pension be reduced.
It looks more and more like it is a career choice that too many are avoiding for something that can offer more in the way of professional respect and income. Let’s hope we can turn some of these dynamics around and create the environment and support that will encourage existing teachers to remain in the classroom and aspiring teachers to join the profession.
Because, on the plus side of the ledger—and it is a huge plus—teachers still get the chance to impact the future.