(The Center Square) – Public schools in Indiana will be permitted to hire non-certified adjunct teachers starting in July, thanks to a new law passed by the state assembly. Proponents see it as a way to ease the state’s shortage of teachers. Critics fear it will lessen the quality of education and perpetuate the shortage.
House Bill 1251 provides that individuals with at least four years of work experience in a particular field may be hired to teach that subject, provided they pass a background check. Adjunct teachers must also be assigned to a mentor for support and guidance in the teaching profession.
The U.S. Department of Education reported a shortage of teachers in Indiana during the current school year in science, math, technology, special education, art and music, world languages and language arts. The shortage is forecast to continue into the 2022-2023 academic year. Proponents of the new law believe it will help address these shortages.
Speakers testifying before the Senate Education and Career Development Committee voiced skepticism of that outcome. “There are at least nine pathways to teacher certification in Indiana. Those who want to teach are already pursuing those pathways,” said Sarah Craft.
Craft added the law “furthers the perception that anyone can be a teacher,” an opinion shared by Tim Connor, a teacher in Delphi Community Schools, who stated, “I have an oven in my house, and I’m telling you right now that oven doesn't make me a baker.”
Connor added that the law had no “guardrails” to ensure teachers’ rights. “I’m afraid it might be union busting,” he added, noting that adjunct teachers are not covered by collective bargaining agreements.
The use of adjunct teachers is commonplace in universities. At Ball State University, for example, just 51% of the teaching staff are tenured or tenure-track faculty, according to College Factual. The remainder are adjuncts or graduate students with teaching responsibilities.
School districts are required to announce any vacant adjunct teaching positions at school board meetings.