- Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz spoke on Florida’s teacher shortage, offering insight into state initiatives and strategies to recruit and retain educators
- Florida currently faces a 10,000+ teacher shortage ahead of the beginning of the next academic year
- Strategies include the recruitment of individuals presently outside of the education field and expanding teacher education pipelines
- Current teachers will receive a bonus as part of the 2022-23 state budget. Teachers can also complete certifications or specific classes to receive stipends and bonus payments
Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz spoke on teacher recruitment and retention on Monday, sounding off on possible solutions and steps the state may take in order to fulfill teaching vacancies.
With less than eight weeks until the start of the new academic school year in Florida’s public schools, the state’s teacher shortage is worsening, with estimates fearing that vacancies could double by the end of 2022.
Diaz honed in on the lack of professional development for teachers, recognizing the monetary and personal investment oftentimes needed to secure proper teaching credentials and certifications. Several counties currently host “new teacher academies,” where high school students are introduced to the teaching profession in preparation for taking on education as a career. Diaz expressed interest in expanding such programs, not only for students but those involved in substitute teaching and paraprofessionals.
“We have future educator programs across the state. We’re looking at expanding those and creating that pipeline,” said Diaz. “One idea is to not only identify students who may go on to work in the teaching profession but also paraprofessionals. How do we get these folks into a pipeline and then provide mentor leadership teachers that can provide hands-on experience and training?”
Diaz also disclosed a state initiative to recruit non-education professionals to teach specialized classes. Exemplified through the utilization of a scientist teaching a class once or twice a week in a local district through means of a block schedule, allowing them to retain their day job while still providing a unique and focused educational experience for students.
“We have expanded pathways for teachers to enter the profession, in other words, we’re looking more and more to non-traditional candidates coming into the teaching profession, and that is many times bringing people over from the world of science and math, especially at the secondary level,” stated Diaz.
A chief cause of the shortage is the failure to retain teachers in their current positions. Diaz stated that most teachers that leave the career field do so between years three and six.
To combat this, the state has implemented several variations of a bonus incentive program predicated on teachers attaining new certifications, such as the newly-formed Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative, which grants educators a $3,000 stipend upon completion.
The state budget, overseen by Gov. Ron DeSantis is attempting to actuate teacher retention through a series of allocations intended to increase teacher base pay.
“Since day one, I have been focused on making Florida a leader in education, and I am proud to announce my proposals to invest record funding into our education system over the next year,” said DeSantis. “By continuing to boost teacher pay, give bonuses to principals and teachers, prioritize workforce education, foster a strong civics curriculum, and replace the FSA with progress monitoring, we’re making a significant difference in the lives of our students.”
For educational services, a round of $1,000 bonus checks for approximately 179,000 teachers and principals in Florida was confirmed, as well as $600 million for teacher pay.
An increase in per-student funding to reach $8,000 per student will be coupled with an elimination of the Florida Standards Assessment and its replacement with progress monitoring.
Diaz insinuated that additional raisings of teacher pay could continue in the future, as Florida’s average teacher compensation is $51,167 after the signing of the state budget, which still remains considerably lower than the $65,293 national average.
Efforts to work around the shortage nationwide include combining classes and streamlining curricula.
In June, the Osceola County School Board voted to hire dozens of foreign instructors to make up for the shortage of teachers domestically, though Commissioner Diaz seemed headstrong on recruiting teachers from out of state rather than outside of the country.