The state’s teachers union says special education is in dire need of attention, but has yet to appear on major legislative agendas for next year. Indiana State Teachers Association, ISTA, President Teresa Meredith says the state’s teacher shortage is still a problem, but while lawmakers have focused on the so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – Meredith says she’s more concerned with another area.
“I think the bigger need – which I think I’ve mentioned before – I think it’s almost at a crisis point, is special education,” Meredith says.
Meredith says there have been some improvements for finding teachers in STEM fields, but qualified special educators are much harder to find and keep.
One problem, she says, are the piles of paperwork special education teachers need to complete, and attention to detail is a must. It’s often time-consuming work for instructors, because of students’ wide-range of unique needs.
The union is watching Indiana legislative leaders’ priorities with a close eye as conversations revolve around STEM. One key lawmaker, House Education Committee Chair Rep. Bob Behning (R-Indianapolis), says he hopes to bring teachers who specialize in STEM content to elementary school classrooms, but Meredith says many elementary teachers already do what they can.
“I think elementary teachers do a pretty good job of trying to figure out how to weave science and social studies into the rest of their curriculum, given all that’s on their plate right now," Meredith says.
Meredith says that’s because there’s a lot of pressure to get kids ready for ISTEP testing, and those test scores can make a huge impact on schools. They play a key role in things like funding, teacher evaluations, and school letter grades. ISTA plans to release its official list of legislative priorities next week.