Indiana on verge of teacher shortage

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - There are concerns Indiana may be on the verge of a major teacher shortage. The Indiana Department of Education said the number of people seeking initial licensure is down roughly 18 percent over five years' time.

The president of the Indiana State Teachers Association said classroom teachers in the state don't feel supported by lawmakers or the governor, and they're seeing veteran teachers leave, with people who might want to teach choosing another profession.

"It's been on our radar a while. We've been seeing a steady decline in the number of folks entering the profession," said Teresa Meredith, the President of the Indiana State Teachers Association," Across the board, we're hearing from folks that they just don't feel professionally supported."

Meredith said the tension surrounding education in the state is a major factor.

She points to very public fights pitting Governor Mike Pence and lawmakers against State Superintendent and State Board Chair Glenda Ritz. Lawmakers stripped Ritz of some of her power in legislation this year, a move that angered teachers as the state's become increasingly focused on standardized testing since 2009.

"Educators feel that legislators and the governor aren't listening to what really needs to be happening in the classroom, and they're trying to find a way to make their voices heard," said Meredith.

The state issued 16,578 new licenses to teachers in 2009, with that number dropping to 6,174 by 2013. But the state said the decline appears drastic because one teacher can hold multiple licenses in different content areas.

The Department of Education said Monday looking at applications for first-time licensees is a more accurate picture. There were 5,599 first-time licensees in 2009, down to 4,565 by 2013. It's a decline of nearly 18 percent.

"How do we support the best and brightest, and how do we get them to come to the profession? How do we get them to stay? That's what we need to be talking about," said Meredith.

The first day of school for Indianapolis Public Schools is August 3rd, and the district said Monday they have 94 openings for teachers, with high need areas in special education, math, science, and elementary. They're even offering a priority pay increase to new teachers in those content areas. If interested, you can email IPS at JoinTeamIPS@myips.org .

FOX59 reached out to Governor Pence's office for comment. Our request was sent to the State Board of Education, where a spokesperson later issued this response:

“The State Board of Education has been monitoring changes in teacher licensing. In fact, the Board took steps in the last month to make obtaining a teacher’s license more accessible for qualified professionals in Indiana. It is anticipated that more people will now be able to obtain a license and join the ranks of the thousands of people who are helping to make a difference in the lives of Hoosier children.”