MISHAWAKA – Walt Disney Elementary student teacher Nicole Harrison is teaching kindergarteners about shapes, but she is also learning a life lesson of her own. Finding a job when she graduates from Indiana University in December will be tough.
“I’ve been a little bit discouraged and I’ve been thinking about maybe not [becoming a teacher],” she said.
The 22-year-old is not alone. Many colleges throughout the state are seeing a drop in education majors.
The number of education majors at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne dropped 19 percent, from 1,020 last fall to 822 this fall, according to Fort Wayne’s Journal Gazette. Trine University saw an 18 percent decrease and Ball State’s Teachers College is down a little more than eight percent, the Gazette reported.
WSBT found the number of future teachers enrolled at Indiana University in Bloomington dropped nearly 13 percent from 841 last fall to 765 this fall. At Indiana University South Bend, education major enrollment is down about 10 percent.
South Bend School Corporation National Education Association President Jason Zook said the dropping enrollment numbers aren’t surprising. He blames it on the economy.
“Education’s been under attack for the last year,” Zook said.
He pointed to state government cutting education funding to 2007 levels, the new voucher program taking students and money from public schools, and changes in teacher licensing and evaluation processes.
“It seems like education is very unstable right now and I think that has a major effect on why people are not going into it the way they were before. It's always been a stable profession,” he added.
When asked whether he believes Indiana is teacher friendly, Zook said he does not feel it is public education friendly.
Indiana teachers unions have not gotten along with Dr. Tony Bennett, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, but Zook said he does not blame the shortage of education majors on Bennett. Some educators have said the current political environment around education probably makes the field less appealing.
Bennett's press secretary told WSBT that Indiana’s Department of Education is not tracking the education enrollment slump. That spokesman also said raising the bar for school accountability does not deter qualified and effective teachers from being successful in Indiana.
Although some are thinking twice about their profession and others have even changed their majors, teachers-in-training like Harrison are trying to keep a positive outlook.
“I have my days where I come in and see the kids and then have these light bulb ‘A Ha!’ moments and I know that's what I want to do,” she said.
Her plan is to apply for as many teaching jobs as she can and substitute teaches until she finds something permanent.