The Indiana Department of Education says the back-to-school is well underway, but more than 1,600 teaching positions remain open statewide. In addition, the agency’s online job board revealed on Tuesday that 791 more of her support positions were open, including her school counselor and classroom aide.

In the last Congress, state legislators proposed keeping “harmful” books away from schoolchildren. Prohibits the teaching of “important race theory” and restricts what teachers can discuss with their students. Force public schools to share revenues earned through referendums with charter schools. Require school board candidates to declare political party affiliation.

Is it any wonder public schools across the state are struggling to fill vacancies?

Indiana’s relatively low teacher salaries certainly contribute to the state’s shortage, but it’s the “negative factor” that keeps teachers out of the classroom, says Southwest Allen County Schools. Luan Erickson, Director of Human Resources, said.

“Take back the love of teaching and the respect we had for our teachers because they are critical. We need teachers,” she said. “We give her children the majority of her day, but she really needs them.”

According to data from the National Education Association, the average annual salary for teachers in Indiana was about $53,000 for the 2021-22 school year. This was $18,000 lower than the average Illinois teacher, $11,000 lower than the Michigan average, $10,000 lower than the Ohio average, and $1,000 lower than the Kentucky average.

Indiana legislators will consider increasing teacher salaries and school funding when the 2023 legislature creates a new two-year budget. But Keith Gambill, president of the Indiana State Teachers Association, told the Indiana Capital Chronicle that simply raising teacher salaries won’t help recruit or retain teachers. “Impact 1” of teacher shortages.

For example, SACS had teaching positions vacant at two elementary schools, which forced them to work around it.

“We have two classes at two different schools. It was so close that there were no applicants at all,” Eriksson said. “Therefore, in those two classes, he has two general education teaching assistants.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has made education tougher, requiring educators to put together lesson plans for in-person and distance learning when schools are closed. But the lawmaker made matters worse during his 2022 session by introducing divisive legislation such as Senate Bill 167 and House Bill 1134. This prohibits the teaching of critical race theory, which is not practiced in elementary, middle, and high schools, and restricts the way teachers discuss race with their students.

Although SB 167 died in the Senate, there was a last-minute attempt to insert elements of HB 1134 into the report of the Conference Committee until the last day of the session. It died too.

“Instead of building a better effort to address teacher salaries (in 2021), legislative leaders will spend much of their time and energy responding to the political narrative and culture wars of radical nations. I chose to dedicate it,” Gambill said of SB 167 and HB 1134.

In the months leading up to the 2023 Legislative Session, legislators and teachers are coming together to create more incentives for teaching, reduce class sizes, increase instructor autonomy over lesson planning, and promote professional education. We need to discuss policy. Pay raises alone cannot make up for years of disrespect for professionals and public institutions.

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