- The Florida Education Association (FEA) is highlighting what it claims is a significant teacher shortage at the beginning of the new school year, with approximately 7,000 teaching vacancies and over 5,000 openings for school support staff statewide.
- The union claims the shortage has led to issues like larger class sizes and the introduction of virtual teachers for some high school science courses in the Monroe County School District.
- FEA President Andrew Spar attributes the shortage partly to Governor Ron DeSantis, pointing to regulatory restrictions
With the first day of school kicking off in most districts statewide, the Florida Education Association (FEA) is drawing attention to what it calls an ongoing teacher shortage, which sits at nearly 7,000 vacancies across all counties.
Per the teacher union, there are also more than 5,000 openings for school support staff, totaling approximately 12,000 unfilled positions. At the beginning of last school year, The Capitolist has previously reported that a bevy of school districts faced a major school bus driver shortage, culminating in several counties offering large-sum sign-on bonuses.
“There are currently nearly 7,000 teaching vacancies statewide, according to a new count of positions advertised on district websites,” said the union. “Advertised vacancies for school support staff stand at over 5,000, bringing the combined total to nearly 12,000 unfilled positions.”
Grappling with its own shortage of qualified educators, the Monroe County School District is introducing virtual teachers for some of its high school science courses. Elsewhere, a growing number of educators are opting to depart from the field, which in turn has given rise to an increase in class sizes, according to the FEA.
As the new school year commenced on Thursday, FEA’s reported data actually shows an uptick from the previous academic year when school district websites across the state posted just over 6,000 teacher vacancies and 4,631 support staff openings.
FEA President Andrew Spar blamed the shortage directly on Gov. Ron DeSantis, pointing towards regulation on Advanced Placement courses like African American Studies and, more recently, Psychology.
“Every single one of these situations stems directly from the fact that Gov. DeSantis is more focused on running for president than on being governor,” said Spar. “Far too many children in Florida won’t have the first day of school they deserve.”
The Governor’s Office and Department of Education declined to comment on the matter or Spar’s comments, though in the past state officials have dismissed the educator shortage as a false narrative.
A rising cost of living has also played a role in driving teachers – and some others – out of the state, though overall, more people are moving into Florida than out. According to data from the job search platform Indeed, the starting annual salary for teachers in Miami-Dade County, which is deemed to have a high cost of living, is $50,571. According to the Miami Herald, in order to lead a “comfortable” life in Miami, one would require an annual income of $77,057.
Conversely, in low-cost-of-living areas like Jefferson County, teachers typically begin their careers with a salary of $47,810, and the living wage calculator created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that the ability to live comfortably in the county requires an annual income of $34,569.60.
The dichotomy between the high cost of living and low cost of living regions of the state is evident, but teacher salaries remain consistent across the board.
Ostensibly, it is affordable to be a teacher in the low-cost areas and rural regions of the state, but urban centers struggle to keep up with costs. For example, San Diego’s average teacher pay is $64,000, Seattle’s average teacher pay is $78,335, and Atlanta’s average teacher pay is $55,178. In Broward County, with a Master’s degree, teachers start at $50,435, according to county data. The county has an extremely high cost of living, with some of the highest rent prices in the nation.
“[It’s] definitely not lucrative,” Spar told The Capitolist. “The pay is so low that people aren’t willing to sacrifice their own economic well-being, so they’re leaving or not coming into the profession.”
In an effort to bring teacher salaries up, DeSantis adopted a ‘Teacher’s Bill of Rights’ this year which, among other things, included provisions to increase teacher pay by $200 million dollar compared to the year prior.
State officials also launched a series of initiatives aimed at attracting teachers to Florida, including a military veteran-to-teacher pipeline that allows men and women who served in the armed forces the ability to enter education spaces as instructors under the tutelage of a mentor, though subsequent data shows low participation rates.