Lawmakers hear hours of testimony on severity of teacher shortage in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS (Oct. 19, 2015) – Lawmakers heard hours of testimony Monday that could impact every Hoosier student in the state.

Lawmakers on the Interim Study Committee on Education wanted to determine whether a widespread teacher shortage exists in Indiana and if it’s worse than in other states.

“There are a lot of things we clearly don’t know,” Teresa Lubbers said, the commissioner of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. “We’d like more information.”

The Legislative Services Agency released the findings of an informal survey of 26 percent of Indiana’s public schools corporation superintendents, many who reported still having vacancies, even some filling permanent teaching spots with substitute teachers.

“It seems to me we have so sharply and harshly criticized teachers and we spend so much of our time with these punitive assessments,” State Sen. Mark Stoops (D-Bloomington) said. “That is the reason we have a teacher shortage.”

Exactly who or what to blame, and how widespread the shortage is, is where the debate continues.

“I can’t connect that feeling and concern that you have with any data I have to provide today,” Lubbers said.

A long list of potential answers were presented Monday – everything from the economy to teacher pay to millennials and Republican-led reforms in the General Assembly.

Recent data from the Department of Education reports the state issued 21 percent fewer licenses in the 2014-15 school year than the year before.

“This is not a new thing,” State Rep. Rhonda Rhoads (R-Corydon) said. “There have been teacher shortages over the years. I have a paper here from 1982.”

State Superintendent Glenda Ritz told lawmakers her own blue ribbon commission is taking the matter seriously and is set to release a list of recommendations to reverse the drop in the number of Hoosiers wanting to become teachers.

Ritz promised cooperation with lawmakers, but it remains unclear whether the efforts of lawmakers and the commission will unite.

“Well the great thing about the commission is we’re dealing with root causes,” Ritz said. “And we’re validating them with research that’s already out there in the nation.”

House Speaker Brian Bosma recently said  it’s a serious issue facing lawmakers and by no means unique to Indiana.

“It’s based on a variety of factors,” he said. “Number one, how good our economy is right now. Young people have many more opportunities, high-paying opportunities. Two is teacher pay level, and that needs to be examined again.”

Monday’s hearing will help create the base for any potential legislation during the upcoming session in January.

 

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