When the school year got underway for the fall semester, Indiana’s public K-12 schools were facing a major dilemma – not enough teachers. The Indiana State Department of Education says there are approximately 1,700 open teaching jobs, and another 1,300 non-teaching jobs, listed on its online job portal. Private schools, like Indianapolis’ Roncalli High School, are not immune to the teacher shortage.
“Somehow, we’ve got to continue to get a message out that right now it’s all hands on deck, “ said Roncalli H.S. President Chuck Weisenbach in an interview on Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. “The message somehow is not getting out in the way that it needs to.”
One aspect of the “all hands” approach is a more aggressive use of established Transition to Teaching programs. Weisenbach believes there is an abundance of would-be teachers who could fill some of these empty roles.
“I’m just convinced, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there are people out there out of the workforce right now, people who’ve retired, people who are considering retiring, people who’d like to do partial retirement, people [who’d] like a career change,” said Weisenbach.
According to Indiana Chalkbeat, an education-focused publication, Indiana Department of Education data from June showed a downward trend in the number of teachers entering the profession over the last decade — from around 6,000 in 2014 to just over 4,000 in 2020. There is also an uptick in teachers leaving the job.
Some school districts are increasing substitute teachers pay to attract workers. Last month, Elkhart Community Schools announced a $350 full day rate for teachers who have retired from the district, as well as $300 for all other retired teachers, up from $145 last year.
Muncie Community Schools doubled its daily pay for subs who meet certain criteria.
Increasing pay is just part of solution. The veteran educator says there is an underutilized resource of people who work in other industries and could provide life-long experiences to the classroom, but they may not realize how to make the move to education.
“Those people are all out there who have an idea, ‘You know maybe I could tackle a chemistry class. Maybe I could tackle algebra. Maybe I could tackle some creative writing courses.’ but they don’t think they have any option to do that,” Weisenbach explained.
But there is a caveat. He says not just anybody could walk into a classroom and teach.
“Teaching is an art. Teaching is a gift and an art,” said Weisenbach.
The Purdue University College of Education has launched a program it says will help address the teacher shortage in Indiana and benefit students who decide to become teachers late in their undergraduate studies. The Boilermaker Track to Teaching gives Purdue juniors and seniors a path that didn’t previously exist to obtaining an Indiana Secondary teaching license.