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.

Counterpoint: Auditor Berry Lauds Surplus

Earlier today, we posted Rep. Pat Bauer’s remarks on the state surplus. Here is State Auditor Tim Berry’s much more favorable view:

State Auditor Tim Berry today announced Indiana’s state government remains in the black despite a continuing poor national economy and reduced receipts to the state.

For the FY2010-11 biennium, the State received 5.0% less revenue ($1.34 billion) and spent 5.5% ($1.52 billion) less than was anticipated in the budget that was passed in June 2009. Thanks to spending restraints, the State ended the FY2011 fiscal year with a reserve balance of $1.18 billion (9.1% of FY11 expenditures).

"Without raising taxes and by carefully watching spending, Indiana state government has continued to live within its means," said Auditor Berry. "For those who believe that raising taxes is the only way out of a fiscal crisis, I say take a look at the Hoosier State."

Guided by the leadership of Governor Mitch Daniels, state government agencies reverted $1.06 billion of their total budgets.

The latest budget numbers only reinforce Indiana’s position as one of the most fiscally-responsible states in the country. While other states have implemented massive tax increases or are spending money they don’t have, Indiana continues to keep taxes low and outlays under control.

Perhaps even more impressive—given the condition of the national economy—is the fact that Indiana’s reserve balance is nearly 1.2 billion dollars (a level that wasn’t predicted to be reached until 2013).

"Governor Daniels has made fiscal accountability one of the hallmarks of his time as governor and the results speak for themselves," continued Berry. "The real heroes of this budget year, however, are the state agencies and their employees who combined to return hundreds of millions of taxpayer money to the treasury."

You can also hear Indiana Fiscal Policy Institute President John Ketzenberger’s take here.

Indiana to Report a Surplus

Inside INdiana Business relays the Hoosier state is prepared to report a surplus for the fiscal year 2010:

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says the state will support a "surprisingly strong surplus" this week. Daniels referred to the pending announcement on CNBC this morning. The news comes after Indiana dealt with revenues $957 million less than budgeted for fiscal year 2010. Indiana was able to remain in the black through steep spending cuts and using nearly $500 million of the state’s surplus, leaving a reserve balance of just over $830 million.

You can see the full report here.


Report: Township Surpluses Keep Growing

The Evansville Courier & Press continues to nail the true reason for township reform — unnecessary (and costly) duplication of government services. Here’s an excerpt from today’s editorial with a link to the full opinion piece and Sunday’s original article detailing the latest questionable tactics:

But the issue for today is current township government, which is not without its questionable practices. Eric Bradner of the Courier & Press Capitol Bureau exposed such an issue in November when he reported that township governments statewide were sitting in late 2008 on $215 million in surpluses, much of it intended for emergency poor relief.

That’s money that township trustees are to use to help people who need short-term help, say for filling prescriptions or keeping the electricity turned on. At the time, a number of trustees said they were spending much more on emergency relief in 2009 because of the impact of the recession on constituents.

But on Sunday, Bradner reported that financial records indicate otherwise. He said that now, the most recent audits show the statewide township surplus has grown to $263 million among the state’s 1,006 townships.

For example, in Barton Township in Gibson County, in 2009, the township collected $60,000 in taxes, spent $35,000, with the surplus growing to $256,000.

And in German Township in Vanderburgh County, some $291,000 in taxes was collected, $271,000 was spent, increasing the surplus by $20,000 to $164,000. But none was spent directly on poor relief. There, the trustee, Fred Happe, reported referring 20 constituents to other sources of help.

… the pressure would still be on Indiana lawmakers to address the issue of township government, mainly its need, but also the outdated system which allows for the accumulation of millions of taxpayers dollars, especially when state and local governments are challenged to meet basic needs.

It is an election year. Ask the candidates, especially those for state legislature, what they think about township government and whether there might be a better way to administer emergency relief paid for with your tax dollars.

IEDC: National Media Lauding Indiana’s Business Climate

In a recent web article from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), it seems many national news media and sources are looking at Indiana as a model for how to take care of business, so to speak:

National news broadcaster CNBC listed the Hoosier state as the “Most Improved State for Business” in its 2008 survey of states. Indiana ranked the best in the Midwest and third in the nation for Business Friendliness in the survey, the best in history for the state and far better than the rest of the industrial Midwest.

Forbes magazine also provided Indiana acclaim by rating the state’s business tax climate as the best in the Midwest and sixth lowest cost of doing business nationally in 2008.

Indiana’s low cost of doing business and tax-friendly environment scored accolades from a Chief Executive magazine survey of the nation’s top CEOs. The magazine’s fourth annual “Best & Worst States” survey polled 605 top executives in early 2008 who listed Indiana as the best place in the Midwest for business, scoring an eighth place national finish and edging out neighboring states by more than 15 places on the survey.

To view all of the rankings, read the piece on IEDC’s web site (PDF).