Indiana school districts see teacher shortages in math, science - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Indiana school districts see teacher shortages in math, science and special education

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SELLERSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) -- A recent study suggests there is a teacher shortage in Indiana, and it is putting a strain on local school districts.

A professor at Indiana State University surveyed more than 140 district superintendents, and 94 percent of those superintendents said they have a teacher shortage. Nearly 70 percent said they do not have enough special education teachers. On top of that, 57 percent reported shortages with math and science teachers.

Of those districts in the survey, 20 percent are relying on full-time substitute teachers to help fill the voids this fall. The professor leading the survey said many teachers are leaving the profession, and few are entering it.

The shortage trend is evident in many southern Indiana school districts, including West Clark Community Schools.

“What we’re seeing is where we used to have 30 applications for every elementary opening, we’re now having ten," said West Clark Superintendent Chad Schenck. "And what we’re finding is when we used to have five for a mathematics or science position or dual credit position, we’re now having two.”

Schenck believes a big factor in the decline is that fewer people are going to school to become teachers.

“I think that’s something we probably haven’t seen the full force and the full brunt of this teacher shortage just yet,” he said.

To attract the few new teachers in high demand and to keep the veteran teachers, districts are shelling out more money. But Schenck admitted he “can’t offer much more because of the strict budget the state has given and levied.”

West Clark is also thinking outside the box to make the district more enjoyable to work for. Schenck said the district offers more fringe benefits for employees along with a safe and healthy environment.

The district started a partnership with Clark Memorial Hospital in September by opening a new clinic for all school employees under the district’s health insurance. Schenck said the clinic will help cut down on medical costs and help save time for employees.

The district is also working to partner with Indiana University Southeast to offer credit reimbursements and stipends for future teachers looking to starts their careers and current teachers looking expand their skill sets. Schenck said this is the district’s way of “essentially growing your own.”

While these are short-term solutions to deal with the shortage, Schenck believes it will take more money and investment from the state and nation to fund public education. He also said it will take a change in mindset to develop more respect for the teaching profession.

“I think if there’s a fix, there needs to be a focus on not only paying teachers for the respect of the vocation that they’re doing ... but also respecting teachers," Schenck said. "I’ve seen a shift in how teachers were once revered. We see less of that today, and that’s a shame. So I think there needs to be a societal shift in how we view teachers.”

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