- New data from the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) challenges claims by the Florida Education Association (FEA) of a severe teacher shortage in the state.
- FEA alleged a historic shortage of nearly 7,000 teacher vacancies, more than last year, blaming Governor Ron DeSantis’s policies, which gained media attention.
- But FDOE disputes FEA’s data, asserting flawed methodology, inflated figures, and a lack of context regarding nationwide teacher vacancies.
- FDOE’s survey reveals a 30% inflation in FEA’s numbers, with only 4,776 actual teacher vacancies – and an 8% decrease from the previous year.
New data released by the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) shows a significantly lower count of teacher vacancies across the state, undercutting claims by the state’s largest teachers union that Florida is facing “one of the worst teacher shortages in the nation.” The Florida Education Association (FEA) has pushed the crisis narrative over the past two weeks and further claimed that Governor Ron DeSantis’s policies are to blame for the “historic” shortage of what FEA claims is nearly 7,000 teacher vacancies.
The FEA’s claims and politically-charged rhetoric were echoed by several state and national media outlets over the last two weeks, with few of the stories questioning the union’s data, how it was gathered, and without putting the claims into a larger context, including the fact that virtually every state in the nation is dealing with teacher vacancies.
A spokeswoman for FDOE this week blasted the teachers union, saying the group inflated the number of vacancies with flawed methodology. The FEA’s figures, which it says are gathered by performing “counts of advertised vacancies listed on school district websites,” are inflated partly because many job listings on the internet remain there for an extended period even after jobs have been filled. FDOE says their data is more accurate because the agency surveyed each school district directly to get up-to-date information about all active vacancies. The end result is that FEA’s data was found to be inflated by almost 30 percent. On top of that, FDOE says that the teachers union’s claim that vacancies have grown this year is also false, and that the real number is actually significantly lower, not higher.
“The FEA’s claim that there are 7,000 teacher vacancies in Florida is completely false and was found using a wildly inaccurate methodology,” wrote Cailey Myers, Director of Communications for FDOE, in an email to The Capitolist. “The Florida Department of Education has surveyed all school districts and found that there are 4,776 teacher vacancies – an 8% decrease in vacancies from this time last year. Also, our 1.28 vacancies per school is well below the national average of 2 per school.”
Despite being confronted with up-to-date information, the Florida Education Association isn’t backing down from its claims.
“Now is not the time to sugarcoat or downplay the teacher and staff shortage. It’s bad, and kids are losing out. The Florida Department of Education can do its best to minimize the staffing crisis facing Florida’s public schools, but the truth is in the numbers,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “We stand by FEA’s Aug. 7 count of vacancies listed on school districts’ websites, just as we stand by the counts we have conducted over the past several years. Due to low pay and a divisive political climate of fear and intimidation, the teacher and staff shortage has gone from bad to worse under the DeSantis administration.”
But FDOE isn’t backing down, either. The agency said in a press release that the introduction of numerous initiatives aimed at teacher recruitment and retention are shaping an altogether different narrative from what has been falsely portrayed by the FEA, which claimed 6,920 teacher vacancies represented a historic high. FDOE says that Florida schools actually began the year with just 4,776 openings, compared to 5,208 last year, putting Florida’s teacher vacancy rate well below the national average.
“It has been a top priority of the Governor, the Florida Legislature and the Department of Education to recruit high-quality teachers to fill our classrooms,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “It is clear from the nearly 10% decline in teacher vacancies reported today that their hard work has paid off.”
According to FDOE, the counties of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas have a total of 389 fewer teacher vacancies, a decrease of 31 percent from last year. Other counties such as Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia have seen 108 fewer teacher vacancies (14 percent decrease), while Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns have 157 fewer teacher vacancies (29 percent decrease). In counties like Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton, 104 fewer teacher vacancies were reported, a decrease of 38 percent.
The release also noted that the Bureau of Educator Certification (BEC) within the FDOE has streamlined the certification process, processing 23,972 teacher certifications since May of 2023. Their focused efforts on certification have been aimed at supporting districts in filling remaining teacher vacancies.
On Sunday, The Capitolist called the teachers union claims into question after comparing their claims with the nationwide data. The analysis concluded that teacher shortages are part of a larger overall labor shortage affecting the entire country, and the challenge is not unique to Florida.