Lawmakers will study the severity of Indiana’s teacher shortage, or if one even exists

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INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 9, 2015) – Indiana lawmakers will study how severe Indiana’s teacher shortage is, or if one even exists at all.

The Department of Education recently reported the number of first-time teacher licensees had dropped 18 percent in the past five years.

Groups like the Indiana State Teacher’s Association say the issue has been boiling over for years.

“If there aren’t qualified candidates applying for the jobs in your child’s school, then there is a teacher shortage,” Teresa Meredith said, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. “Period. End of story.”

But recently there’s been loud and growing opposition to that claim, arguing talk of a statewide teacher shortage is overblown.

Meredith calls the problem a multi-layer issue, pointing the finger at lawmakers in part for new laws and intense scrutiny on teachers.

“Nationally I think there’s an issue in a few pockets across the country,” she said. “But in Indiana it is a very significant issue and has very, very definite root causes.”

Others aren’t so sure.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who can say there’s a definite root cause,” Marc Lotter said, spokesman for the Indiana State Board of Education.

Lotter said the issues runs much deeper, adding board members are launching pilot programs aimed at retention and analyzing data about teacher retirements, enrollment numbers and targeted subject-specific shortages.

“I think it’s overly simplistic to say that something that we’re seeing around the nation and around the globe is unique to Indiana and its causes,” he said.

Lawmakers have now decided to study the issue themselves.

An interim study committee on education is expected to hear the matter in October, as the Department of Education has launched its own commission this month as well aimed at teacher recruitment and retention.

“There’s no question we have fewer first-time teacher licensures occurring,” State Rep. Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis) said. “We need to dive a little more deeply into all of the details.”

Lawmakers don’t know yet whether any specific legislation will come from the hearing.

“If all they’re doing is getting input and perhaps arguing that there isn’t a shortage, if that’s all that results from it,” Meredith said. “Then it will be a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

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