Teacher Shortage Concerns at Forefront of Interim Study Group

Portrait of students taking notes while their classmate is raising his hand

A popular phrase in Indiana these days is the term “teacher shortage.” So much so that the Indiana General Assembly leadership asked the Education Interim Study Committee to schedule an extra meeting on Oct.19 to discuss this issue.

This marathon committee hearing lasted close to nine hours and featured testimony from many people (both from Indiana and around the country). Data is often conflicting – while there may be fewer potential teachers applying to education schools, it seems to be that there are pockets of shortages (in STEM, special education and secondary schools). (In fact, a Michael Hicks/Ball State study released last Wednesday said there was actually a surplus of teachers, except for these specialty areas). Emphasis was also provided – with bipartisan support – on the importance of mentoring, as well as flexibility of teacher pay and grant incentive programs in shortage areas.

The study committee proposed 20 recommendations to be put into its final report of the year – of which 17 were agreed upon. But this does not mean that they might turn into actual legislation during the 2016 General Assembly session. Many of these recommendations dealt with further study, but the biggest recommendation called for new money to be used to increase salaries for teachers and other educators for the first 10 years of their career. However, the 2016 legislative session is not a budget session, which essentially handcuffs the ability to propose any new funding.

All in all, while we do not expect the 2016 legislative session to be dubbed another “education session,” we should anticipate some comprehensive bills when it comes to testing, accountability and teacher shortage solutions. The Indiana Chamber is immersed in these policy issues and is in constant contact with policymakers to ensure that we are part of those discussions.

BSU Economist: U.S. Jobs Boost in March a Sign of Recovery

It’s no secret things have hardly been rosy in the U.S., or the world for that matter, when it comes to economic progress in the past two years. But Ball State University economist Michael Hicks sees light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, citing American job growth in March as a key indicator. A recent release from BSU asserts:

Reports that the American economy added about 216,000 jobs in March is solid evidence that a recovery is taking hold, says economist Michael Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced this morning that businesses created 216,000 jobs last month, after adding 192,000 jobs in February. The past two months mark the fastest two-month pace of job creation since before the recession began. Factories, retailers, education, health care and an array of professional and financial services expanded payrolls.

"But it will take about two years with job growth at double this rate to nudge the unemployment rate back down toward the 5.5 percent level that might be the new normal," Hicks says. "The March numbers do indicate that the 50 cent run-up in gas prices hasn’t yet turned the economy backward, but most certainly, job growth would’ve been stronger at $3 a gallon prices.

Ball State Economist: Recession is Over

I would file this under "bold statement," although we all hope it’s true:

Michael Hicks, director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), says today’s announcement that the economy grew by an astounding 5.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 officially shuts the door on the recession.

The first estimate by the U.S. Commerce Department put fourth-quarter gross domestic product growth at its fastest pace since the third quarter of 2003. Hicks said the recession that began in late 2008 will be ranked the third or fourth worst post-World War II economic setback.

However, he points out the decline in wealth in homes and stocks was the worst since the Great Depression.

"The down side is that the third quarter annual growth rate of 2.2 percent, was disappointingly low coming out of such a deep recession," Hicks says. "While today’s numbers are good, they may well be revised downward significantly as we saw for the previous quarter."

"While this has not been the worst postwar recession, the recovery may well be. I’m expecting it to be late summer before we see the unemployment rate to show any permanent decline. Real job creation won’t materialize until nearer the retail holiday season later this year."

A More Robust Recovery Here at Home

Two Michaels (or Mikes in the less formal approach) combine to offer an interesting and refreshing take on our current economic status. Michael Snyder, principal of The MEK Group (a business development consulting firm), also writes a weekly column for MidwestBusiness.com. Michael Hicks, the director of Ball State’s Center for Business & Economic Research, is a leading state economist.

In an interview with Snyder, Hicks presents an uplifting — but still realistic — view of the downturn and the prospects for when the turnaround will occur. Some economic indicators are starting to turn, Hicks says, and an official end to the recession may be closer than what many think. The practical recovery, unfortunately, takes a while longer.

Hicks also offers that the competitive advantage Indiana has built up in recent years will pay strong dividends in the revival phase. Some former Hoosiers with that entrepreneurial spirit might well find it a good time to come back home.

Read the full story. And thanks to both Mikes for their continuing efforts.

Congress Appears to Vote “Nay” on Bailout

You have a nice weekend? Yeah, me too. Weather was nice, football was watched, fun was had. Oh, one small thing I should also mention: our entire economic structure is swirling in a giant (bleep)storm.

So in "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" news, we’d like to discuss the bailout. (And as I write this, it appears the current proposal is on the verge of defeat in the House.)

According to John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, defeat today would be ideal, as the proposed $700 billion could actually have had a net negative impact on the economy. He writes in The American Spectator:

"The government has to do something to keep markets from falling and the economy from getting worse." How many times have you heard that mantra this past week from President Bush, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, Democrat leaders, the news media, and even some ostensibly conservative periodicals?

But what if the bailout, as originally proposed and in its latest incarnation, would spend $700 billion of taxpayers’ money and actually make the economy worse? Believe it or not, there is good evidence this may happen. The inflationary prospects of the bailout price tag may lead to spikes in oil and crop prices that could hit ordinary Americans in their cars and on their kitchen tables. And government purchases of financial assets could ironically further constrain credit through causing write-downs on even the balance sheets of financial firms not participating in the bailout by worsening the effects of mark-to-market accounting rules.

But not everyone is so bearish on the matter. Obviously, Treasurer Paulson and many members of Congress didn’t think it was such an economic downer.  

Also of note, Ball State economist Michael Hicks is now on record saying the ultimate proposal could cost much less — $100 billion over five or six years.

Just $100 billion? Oh, see, and here I thought this was going to impact me financially.