Topics: Administrative, Miller College of Business

October 28, 2015

While there have been major news stories in the media in recent months about Indiana schools facing a K-12 teacher shortage, current data indicates there’s actually an excess supply of educators—at least in Indiana, says a new report from Ball State University.

Michael Hicks, CBER director and author of the policy brief Indiana’s Demand & Supply Issues for K-12 Educators, used data from various sources, including the Indiana Department of Education, to ascertain there is no evidence of teacher shortages other than anecdotes some districts are seeing fewer applicants.

“There is a long history of alarmism over teacher shortages, not only in Indiana, but across the nation,” he said. “This is not a new phenomenon, as a recent analysis of news stories in The New York Times found. The newspaper warned about teacher shortages every five to 10 years since 1950. Even a cursory reading reveals the same anecdotal explanations regarding pay, working conditions, the social status of teachers, and difficulties arising from educational policies.

“We’ve witnessed the same sort of anecdotal stories in recent news reports. However, even Indiana’s own job bank for teachers suggests no shortage of teachers except perhaps in STEM and special education fields.”

Ball State’s research found teaching in Indiana has been among the most stable occupations in the state over the past 30 years. Teacher employment and the number of new holders of bachelor’s degrees have been stable since the mid- to late-1980s.

Small percentage work in field

One of the factors affecting the reporting of the perceived shortage is the number of professionals with education degrees who are not teachers. The study found Indiana has about 39,000 trained teachers working outside public education while 16,000 are working in occupations that pay less than teaching.

Hicks’ research confirms evidence found in several national studies that only a small share of education majors were working as teachers in the year after graduation. Not surprisingly, the number of students enrolled in teachers colleges has been much smaller in recent years as students seek out education fields with better career prospects.

The report also indicates that enrollment in public and private K-12 Indiana schools is not a factor to the perceived teacher shortage. Enrollment has been static statewide with increases for a third of the mostly urban, larger school districts offset by declines in two-thirds of school districts found in more rural areas of the state.

Research also indicates the peak of baby boom retirements occurred in 2012-14, thereby not representing an acute challenge to staffing since the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years saw growth in numbers of teachers and administrators.

Policy recommendations

As part of the report, Hicks offers policy recommendations for the Indiana State Legislature to consider, including raising teacher salaries. The report found pay for Indiana teachers’ ranks 35th in the nation, while per capita income in Indiana is 38th.

“However, tightening labor markets will require higher wages for Indiana teachers, as early as the 2016-2017 school year,” he said. “This should be accompanied by compensation rules that allow for market-based pay for key disciplines.”

Other policy recommendations include:

  • State universities should counsel prospective education majors about the excess supply of teachers and direct students into fields with increasing demand (STEM, technology education and special education).
  • Incentives to non-traditional students in STEM fields, technology education and special education may be warranted. 
  • Licensing restrictions serve to keep qualified individuals out of the classroom, and should be dramatically reduced.
  • Indiana should introduce emergency licensing immediately in fields such as STEM, technology education, and special education. 
  • Additional resources to fast growing and large school districts may be warranted after future study.
  • Small and shrinking school corporations should be incentivized to merge at the corporation level and provided with planning and incentive funds to do so.

“Despite the excess supply of teachers overall, and the stability of teacher turnover, it is clear that there is a skills mismatch,” Hicks said. “Even with an excess supply of teachers overall there are not enough teachers who can instruct STEM, special education and technology education specialties. However, this would be a good time to address this problem and attract potential applicants.”