There’s still time to do right for students and teachers

March 1, 2023 7:00 am

An Indiana teacher reads to her class. (Courtesy Indiana State Teachers Association)

We have a crisis on our hands! Last year, Indiana didn’t have enough trained and fully licensed teachers and was forced to provide emergency licenses to 10% of its teacher workforce. This, combined with the thousands of teacher vacancies in the state, is cause for alarm, but not despair.

There are real, proven solutions for attracting and retaining the educators our students need and deserve. The Indiana State Teachers Association (ISTA) shared these bipartisan solutions with lawmakers at the beginning of this year’s legislative session. That was more than two months ago. 

Now, nearly halfway into the legislative session, lawmakers have done more to worsen Indiana’s educator shortage crisis than to help it. We still have time to work together to change that. 

The front line

Legislators must let parents and educators on the front line be their guide to what students need. A recent parent poll commissioned by the Indiana Department of Education showed 88% of parents are satisfied with the quality of their child’s school, 81% know what their children are learning in school, and 78% support those learnings. 

This is good feedback from Hoosier parents. Yet, some lawmakers are ignoring them and using their legislative platform to wage a culture war. Already this session, we’ve seen bills designed to divide and distract us—bills that would rob educators of our collective voice, as well as dictate and criminalize what we teach. This is NOT the way to attract new teachers or retain our most experienced.    

We’re asking legislators to refocus and join us in addressing the educator shortage crisis and in making sure our students get the resources they need.  

This crisis is a multifaceted problem that affects all kids and requires a multi-pronged solution. The shortage of qualified educators is not only affecting the quality of education but also hampering the progress of students—especially those in disadvantaged communities.

The shortage explained

Talk to teachers and they will tell you why there’s a workforce shortage. They will tell you, it’s “a lack of respect and support, constant attacks on teaching, and low salaries,” to name a few. 

Indiana ranks last in the region for average teacher salary. The result? A high teacher turnover rate and vacancies impossible to fill with qualified candidates.

No one knows the educational needs of their students more than classroom teachers. Instead of listening to them or parents, the Senate has passed a bill designed to do the opposite. Senate Bill 486 takes away the right teachers have had for more than 50 years — the right to collectively advocate for their students with local administrators.

Bills like this exacerbate the teacher shortage. Instead, lawmakers should help schools offer competitive salaries to attract and retain talented educators, as well as channel resources into Indiana’s public schools, not siphon it away like the proposed House Republican budget does. Their budget provides a 70% funding increase for private school vouchers for wealthy parents and a paltry 5% for traditional public schools, where 90% of Indiana’s students attend.

The members of ISTA are committed to ensuring every student learns from a caring and qualified educator. We are determined that educators will keep their seat at the table to advocate for their students. We are steadfast in advocating for the respect, resources, pay, working and learning conditions that enable us to support and care for our students, our families and ourselves.

Parents and educators are coming together to ensure all students get the high-quality schools and teachers they need to thrive. We need lawmakers to do the same before time runs out. 


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Keith Gambill
Keith Gambill

Keith Gambill is president of the Indiana State Teachers Association. He is a middle school music and drama teacher. He has taught in Evansville’s public schools for more than 30 years.