Despite widespread reports of many U.S. school districts facing teacher shortages, a recent study from Ball State University says the state of Indiana actually has an oversupply of teachers.
Analyzing changes to school enrollments and teaching degrees earned over the past 30 years, the Center for Business and Economic Research found that the number of teachers has kept pace with student enrollments. According to the study’s author Dr. Michael J. Hicks, director of the CBER, the population of school-aged children in Indiana has declined in six of the past seven years. Meanwhile, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded annually from teachers colleges has stayed consistent.
“If my study is correct, it tells us there are a lot of people who would like to be teachers, but once they get their degree they’re unable to find a teaching position,” said Dr. Hicks. “My question is, ‘Where’s the research from teacher colleges supporting the shortage?’”
Further, the report titled, “Indiana’s Demand & Supply Issues for K-12 Educators,” states there are about 39,000 trained teachers in Indiana working in fields other than education. The report even recommends that state universities should counsel prospective education majors about the excess supply of teachers.
However, even with the oversupply found in the study, many school districts report a drop in response to advertised teaching jobs. Greensburg Community Schools, about 55 miles from Indianapolis, has seen a major drop in teachers applying for jobs in recent years, says Tammy Williams, director of curriculum and instruction. Williams estimates that six years ago Greensburg would receive 80 to 100 applications for a general elementary teaching job. This year the district averaged 20 to 30 applications for each such job posting. “The candidate pool is much more shallow than it had been in the past,” Williams said.
Krista Stockman, public information officer at Fort Wayne Community Schools echoed Williams, saying her school district too is experiencing a decline in the number of applications it receives for its job postings. “Right now, we have about 50 teacher openings, which is a little higher than usual for this time of year,” said Stockman. “We’re fearful it’s going to get worse.
“The number of qualified applicants – particularly for math, science and special ed – is significantly reduced. There are times for those positions that we do not get any qualified candidates, some applicants don’t even have the appropriate bachelor’s degree.”
Hicks’ report concedes that schools do have a need for more special education teachers and for teachers in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math. School districts report especially wide shortages of teachers in these subjects.
At South Bend Community School Corporation, hard-to-fill teaching positions pay up to 20 percent higher than general teaching positions, said Sue Coney, director of communications. She said those positions include not only math, science and special education, but also bilingual teachers.
The report was published just after a state legislative committee recommended increasing educators’ pay, offering teachers additional job training, and expanding mentorship programs for teachers, all in hopes of recruiting more teachers to work in Indiana.
“I think the teacher shortage today is generated by a PR gimmick by some in the education establishment who are opposed to education reform and who want to reallocate more money to schools,” Hicks said. “And I would like to see more money go into schools.”