A new study by Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research strongly disputes the perception that Indiana has a teacher shortage.
The study, released Wednesday, found there was actually an excess supply of teachers in the state. That oversupply originated nearly 15 years ago, the study said, leading to recent enrollment declines in colleges of education.
That enrollment decline has led to a recent drop in new teacher’s licenses, but that doesn’t translate into a shortage of teachers, said Mike Hicks, the study’s author and CBER director. Turnover is low in the teaching profession and open positions are often filled by former teachers who have temporarily tried other fields.
In fact, the study said, there are 39,000 trained teachers in Indiana working outside of the education field.
“There is much rhetoric about a looming teacher shortage, but beyond this anecdote there is no evidence of a teacher shortage in Indiana,” Hicks wrote in the study. “Overall enrollment in K-12 schooling has been static over the past half-decade. There is not increased demand for teachers in Indiana, and the number of teachers in Indiana has been among the most stable occupations in the state over the past 30 years.”
However, Hicks did say there “may be significant unmet demand for teachers in specialized disciplines. These are likely concentrated in mathematics, science, English, special education, and emerging STEM and occupation-related areas.”
The study recommended higher pay or incentives for teachers entering STEM fields and a stronger effort to steer teaching candidates into in-demand fields.
The teacher-supply issue has been a politically charged one among educators and lawmakers. Earlier this year, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz appointed a 49-member commission to investigate why a declining number of people are becoming teachers in Indiana.
The commission has met several times and plans to announce its complete findings Dec. 7.
Meanwhile, a study commission on education composed of lawmakers, educators, and stakeholders this week endorsed a series of steps that would attempt to address the shrinking number of new teachers. The steps call for increasing educator pay, offering additional job training and expanding mentorship programs.
The Indiana State Teachers Association criticized the recommendations because they failed to address whether recent education reforms by the Republican-dominated Statehouse had discouraged candidates from entering the profession.
Hicks noted there has been “a long history of alarmism over teacher shortages,” even though the supply of teachers has remained steady for decades.
Hicks' study backed up similar research conducted earlier this year by Chalkbeat Indiana.