The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 24, 2019 1:00 am

Teacher shortage hits many areas

Several subjects lack educators

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Indiana faces teacher shortages in nearly 15 subjects – including fine arts, science, math and world languages, the state Department of Education announced Tuesday.

The state will submit the list to the U.S. Department of Education this week. The federal government began collecting such information from states annually in 1990.

“Sadly, Indiana and teacher shortage have become synonymous terms,” Jennifer McCormick, Indiana superintendent of public instruction, said in a statement. “For nearly a decade we have struggled to find educators to fill even the frequently offered classroom subjects.

“Unfortunately, this shortage continues to spill into areas not only critical to Indiana's educational plan, but areas that prepare our students for a bright future.”

In the early 1990s, Indiana experienced shortages only in teachers serving students with disabilities, according to a federal government report.

Now, the state education department said, Indiana lacks educators in business; computer education; computer science; career and technical education licensure areas; early childhood education; exceptional needs; fine arts, instrumental and general music; fine arts, vocal and general music; math; science; secondary language arts; technology education; teachers of English learners; and world languages.

“This also highlights the greater issue that Indiana's educators deserve better pay and more practitioner-inclusive legislation in order to attract and retain them,” McCormick said.

Last week, McCormick told a Fort Wayne audience that 35% of teachers leave the profession within five years. Pay and working conditions are the top reasons, she said.

Fort Wayne Community Schools often has 35 to 40 teacher vacancies, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

“That may seem high to some,” she said, “but it's really only about 2% of our teaching staff. Most companies would be ecstatic to have a 98% fill rate.”

Special education, math, science and foreign languages are areas FWCS has trouble filling, Stockman said. She noted a staff recruiter works to fill all positions and focuses specifically on those hard-to-fill posts.

“With our salary and benefits, we are highly competitive, but school districts across the country are competing for the same small pool of applicants for these positions,” Stockman said. “There just aren't enough people going into teaching in these areas.”

The 2004-05 year was the last a state – Alaska – reported having no teacher shortage areas, according to the federal government's report that included data through 2017-18.

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