INDIANAPOLIS — A teacher shortage, which educators describe as unprecedented, is at the top of the Indiana State Teachers Association’s (ISTA) priorities leading into the 2023 legislative year.
ISTA says for nearly a decade they’ve warned leaders about the teacher shortage saying now it’s unsustainable.
Tuesday they provided solutions they will focus on in the upcoming 2023 legislative session.
"The educator shortage crisis is real,” ISTA President Keith Gambill said.
Gambill laid out a 4-step plan of action he hopes legislators will tackle in the 2023 legislative session.
He says it starts with everyone working together and adds on the average day in the state we have about 15,000 educator jobs open.
“If that isn't compelling enough for legislators to recognize they have to do better in increasing the pay and doing what is needed to make sure that we are able to fully staff our schools then I don't know what that would take to convince them,” Gambill said.
Gambill says educators need more pay, legislators need to improve working conditions for both teachers and students, respect educators voice and inspire and prepare the next generation of educators.
"We cannot rely on short term fixes,” Gambill said.
Gambill says this isn’t just educators who they need to focus on, but also other people involved in the school system like food service providers and bus drivers.
The legislative session will begin at the Indiana Statehouse on January 9.
Solutions for teacher shortage, 4 areas of focus:
Paying educators as professionals:
- Implement competitive and attractive pay and benefit for all educators
- Educator pay is a critical factor when people decide to enter and stay in the profession
- Education careers lack significant and reliable growth in compensation meaning many educators to work more than 1 job to achieve an adequate standard of living
- Too many leave the profession all together when it becomes apparent their experience is not valued.
- Calling on general assembly to provide significantly increased funding to public schools to ensure that the goals tied to Indiana’s teacher salary ranking are reached and that teachers can see their future earning are keeping up with inflation.
Improving educator working conditions and student learning conditions:
- Key factors include educator voice, community support and parental engagement. Time for teaching, class size and case load. Student conduct, health and safety, professional learning and collaboration.
- If going to improve student success must address fairness of funding schools receive. Especially students from low-income families.
- Want to increase complexity funding to at least match inflation, as well as expanding the factors used to determine complexity.
- Look beyond SNAP, TANIF and foster care. Include students with high mobility, average income by school district, textbook assistance, and receive title 1 services.
- Increase special education funding and ELL funding by about 200 mil. Data shows, insufficient funding in those areas is causing school districts to use complexity funding for those mandated programs. These resources are not interchangeable.
- Develop universal free public Pre-K program withing the next 3 years.
- Only state in Midwest and among just a handful in county without a comprehensive program and is time to do this.
- Prioritize creating working environments that support and retain educators of color now.
- Teachers of color are underrepresented in schools, common reason why educations of color leave the profession is due to an inhospitable work environment that is not culturally responsive or inclusive.
- How to address: Schools and districts should actively commit to racial and social justice and equity to eliminate bias, employment policy’s that promote a culturally responsive and inclusive environment.
Respecting educator voice, professionalism, and autonomy:
- Essential that educators are at table in decision making process. Educator voice refers to the meaningful incorporation of their values, opinions and beliefs, perspectives, and knowledge
- Providing education employees with the right to engage collectively, ensures that they have a legally guaranteed voice at the able to determine their terms and conditions of employment
- Educators will be able to improve conditions they work and students work.
Inspiring and preparing the next generation of educators:
- Need to abandon gimmicks that lower standards for teachers licensure and one time incentives for new hires that don’t address the root of the staffing challenges or the need to retain qualified high quality professionals in our schools.
- Fund high school and college teacher programs, including provident significant increases in scholarship opportunities for prospective teachers.
- Funding student teaching with intentional focus on programs for students of color.
- Providing ample and generous scholarships make a different in getting a student who enters college with a plan of becoming a practicing teacher to the finish line matters.
- It is not too much to ask the state to enable capable and willing prospective teachers to begin their careers without being saddled with 10s of thousands of dollars of college debt
- It is an investment on the front end of a process that reaps dividends to the state in short order.