OP ED: Sen. Messmer Addressing the Teacher Shortage

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By State Sen. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper)

Like the rest of the country, Indiana continues to face a teacher shortage. This legislative session, the Indiana General Assembly passed Senate Enrolled Act 387 to combat this problem, ensuring Hoosier students continue to get a top-notch education.

SEA 387 takes a comprehensive approach to the various problems that contribute to our teacher shortage by making it easier for people with excellent professional backgrounds to enter teaching, giving schools greater flexibility in setting teacher pay and requiring the Indiana Department of Education(DOE) to look at new licensure exams for teachers.

Shortages often occur because many new teachers leave the profession rather than waiting years to move up the pay scale. This new law makes it easier for schools to boost the pay of newer teachers by allowing districts to offer larger raises to those at the bottom of the pay scale.

Another contributing factor to the shortage of teachers is that many individuals with the knowledge to teach in high-need fields like STEM often make a higher income in occupations other than teaching. Our state offers a “Career Specialist” permit for those who do not go through a teacher preparation program but have strong professional experience, and SEA 387 codifies this practice. The law also allows districts to offer supplemental pay for STEM and special education teachers to keep and retain these teachers.

Lastly, the DOE will be required to look at a new set of licensure exams, since some subjects on our current exam have pass rates as low as 40 percent. With a new exam, we will be certain that we are not wrongly keeping capable teachers from earning a license.

SEA 387 is a big step in addressing our teacher shortage by giving school districts more flexibility. These provisions aren’t a mandate for schools, and all of the policies will still be decided locally. By granting more flexibility, we can get more Hoosiers into the teaching profession and allow districts to retain their best and brightest.

As always, feel free to contact my office directly with your questions and concerns by email at Senator.Messmer@iga.in.gov or by phone at 800-382-9467.