If You Say It, They Will Come…And, Chicken Little Found, In Iowa!

Gadfly makes a good and obvious point per this Des Moines Register article from the other day about a decline in new teachers in Iowa. But there is a more basic issue, too:

The number of initial teaching licenses has apparently dropped there from “5,831 to 4,508 between fiscal 2000 and 2005, according to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners.” Possible culprits? The lede graf fingers the usual suspects: “[The decline] educators say stems from low pay, increases in college tuition, negative publicity about schools and pressures brought on by the federal No Child Left Behind law, which demands steady school improvement.”

Right. But another factor might be that according to the Digest of Education Statistics the 5-17 year old population in Iowa has declined from 532,000 in 2001 to 512,000 in 2003 and is presumably still declining…in other words, fewer students. But no matter, blame No Child Left Behind! Between declining enrollments and the economy there is likely less here than meets the eye* but don’t let any of this get in the way of a good panic:

“We keep saying the sky is falling and all the policymakers have ignored us,” said Linda Nelson, president of the Iowa State Education Association, which represents 32,000 teachers. “If we don’t put a large infusion of money to raise that average salary to closer to 25th in the nation, then this is just going to get more gloom and doom.”

*The problem seems more likely to be a mismatch between what people can teach/want to teach and what Iowa needs, namely more math and science teachers. By the numbers Iowa does produce a lot of teachers relative to its overall teacher population. That’s a problem a lot of states are having, not an overall teacher shortage but a shortage in certain subjects (special education is another biggie). That’s where differential pay comes in, if you’re going to insist on paying everyone the same it’s going to be really had to fill those slots…

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