Study Suggests Indiana Has 'Excess Supply' of Teachers

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MUNCIE -

A new report from Ball State University's Center for Business and Economic Research suggests a perceived shortage of teachers in the state may actually be just the opposite. CBER Director and study author Mike Hicks says Indiana's bank of available teachers appears to be full. He says the only exception might be teachers in science, technology, engineering and math or special education fields. The teacher supply and demand issue is a major topic of discussion among Indiana educators and legislators.

Hicks tells Inside INdiana Business some "hints" of declines exist, but the numbers don't jibe with reality. He says event though teacher's colleges throughout Indiana have been reporting declining program enrollment for "well over a decade," there will be fewer positions available in the teaching job market, "so it's natural that the licensing part of this would see decline."

Hicks believes "part of the ferver" the public is hearing relating to a perceived shortage is connected to education policymakers hoping to make changes in the system.

He says the current pay structure within the profession is leading to an imbalance in the availability of certain teaching disciplines. Hicks says teachers have been compensated in the same way factory floor workers are and their performance and scarcity of skills are not factored into pay. He raised this point to lawmakers studying the issue at the Statehouse. "We have an abundance of teachers who are not in demand in some disciplines and then we have maybe a skills mismatch, and we don't have enough in those critical math, science and technology skills. That's really caused by a compensation system that doesn't tell people where they're needed." Hicks says he thinks this will push legislators to explore the concept of allowing teachers to negotiate their own contracts in the future, so they are not treated as a ""homogeneous commodity."

Overall, the study found Indiana has about 39,000 trained teachers working outside public education. It says 16,000 have jobs that pay less than teaching. It suggests graduates are seeking fields with "better career prospects" than teaching.

Hicks tells Inside INdiana Business hints of a shortage in the state "don't stand up to scrutiny."
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