Lower salaries clue to teacher shortage

KPC News

Two key legislators want their colleagues to study reports of a looming teacher shortage in Indiana.

Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, raised the issue in a letter last month.

“It would be helpful to receive testimony from experts, and from the field on why teacher enrollment and licensures are dwindling,” said their letter to Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis.

Among the statistics worrying the legislators:

The Associated Press reported the number of first-time teacher licenses issued in Indiana has dropped by nearly 20 percent since 2009 — a decrease of more than 1,000 per year. Some reports said the decrease is even more dramatic.

Ball State University reported the number of students training to become teachers has declined by 45 percent in the last decade.

Purdue University’s College of Education said its undergraduate enrollment is down 33 percent since 2010.

Since those reports, plenty of experts and amateurs have offered theories to explain the apparent loss of appeal for teaching as a career.

Critics have blamed the growth of vouchers for students to attend private schools, Indiana’s linking of pay raises to student performance on standardized tests and widespread bashing of public schools and teachers by Hoosier elected officials.

One simple piece of advice that works for all kinds of situations is “follow the money.”

Plenty of statistics can be found on teacher salaries. The most reliable-looking numbers we found come from the National Education Association, the giant teacher union that studies education spending carefully.

The NEA certainly is biased in favor of teachers, but it has no reason to favor one state over another in its statistics.

NEA’s latest reports are based on the 2013-2014 school year.

As measured by NEA, the average teacher salary in Indiana trails every other Great Lakes state by at least $4,000 per year and the national average by $6,000 per year.

The actual numbers for average teacher salaries show Indiana at $50,289, U.S. average $56,610, Illinois $60,124, Michigan $62,166, Ohio $54,858 and Wisconsin $54,648.

NEA measured the change in teacher salaries when adjusted for inflation. It found that teachers in 34 states actually lost real earning power over the past decade. But Indiana teachers ranked next-to-worst with a loss of 12.9 percent.

One of the most important numbers to a college student considering a teaching career might be the starting salary.

The average starting salary for a new Indiana teacher is $34,696, which rates right in the middle at 24th when the states are ranked top to bottom. However, it’s lower than three of the four states bordering Indiana, including Illinois at $37,166, Michigan at $35,901 and Kentucky at $35,166. Only Ohio ranks lower at $33,096.

When legislators start looking at the problem this week, they’ll hear a lot of testimony about why young people don’t want to become teachers.

But maybe it’s because they’re good at math.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.