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Indiana education leaders tour state to learn about teacher shortages

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Department of Education has a new website with all of the open teaching positions in the state.

Indiana says it’s the first state to offer a statewide website specifically for schools’ job openings.

The problem, News 8 was told, isn’t finding open teaching positions, but retaining teachers due to pay and working conditions. 

The Indiana Department of Education is having a listening tour, or summits, around the state. The first of the three sessions ended this week. The tour continues through the end of June. Katie Jenner, Indiana’s secretary of education, and her staff are attempting to stem the tide of teachers hitting the exit door.

Jack Hesser, a middle school teacher for Indianapolis Public Schools, says IPS is among districts making strides, but not every school corporation is following suit. “Across the state, like that is not the same story we are seeing right now for Hoosier educators across the state. We have some teachers that are really struggling financially, and the common theme that, I think, of all 92 counties in the state of Indiana are the working conditions.”

Hesser says working conditions have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers are being asked to fill a variety of roles, some mandated by the district or the state, which at the end of the day is burning out teachers. “What’s being asked of teachers — again the amalgamation of all of the asks — is overwhelming, and I don’t think we are looking at through the lens of, like, this person in front of me as a human professional but I’m not creating a sustainable work practice for them. I’m burning them out.”

Burnout in the teaching profession is not lost on the state Department of Education. In an effort to attract teachers, the state has opened several nontraditional pathways into the classroom, including emergency and adjunct certificates.

Hesser said, “It seems so bizarre to me because that also … how in any shape or form is that addressing the, ‘quote, unquote,’ concerns around quality education that we also see from … legislators? … .. Yet, the solution is too lower the bar of who … that doesn’t seem like a real solution to the problem.”