The 2022-23 K-12 school year begins in less than two months, and Florida school districts are facing teacher shortages.
As of this week, Duval County Public Schools reported 529 vacancies for certified teachers, up 23 percent – nearly 100 positions — compared to the start of last school year. This year’s vacancies are almost double the number Duval saw at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
In addition, Orange County Public Schools lists over 200 K-12 teacher openings, while Brevard County Public Schools lists 235 teacher vacancies.
And while the numbers are daunting, they should not be surprising.
According to surveys by the Florida Education Association(FEA), the number of teacher vacancies have increased by 104 percent since August 2019. In August 2019, the FEA reported there were 2,135 advertised positions. This number increased to 2,962 in August 2020 and had ballooned to 4,359 by January 2022.
The report indicates that the most severely impacted curriculum is English, a subject in need of more teachers since only 25 percent of third-graders were found to read at a proficient level on the state FSA exam.
The report also notes that English and reading skills have the largest percentage of outside-the-field instructors – less than 4 percent of educators possess subject certification in these areas. Approximately 60,000 out of the 591,461 registered classes taught in schools throughout the state are being taught by individuals who are not licensed to do so, including over 9 percent of the English programs.
The findings by the FEA survey are consistent with data released by the National Education Association in February 2022 that found 55 percent of responding educators were thinking of leaving the profession earlier than planned. That number was up from 37 percent from the August 2021 numbers.
The increase in vacancies has not been ignored by elected leaders.
The Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis attempted to incentivize teachers with financial enhancements during the 2022 legislative session which ended in March 2022.
“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.”
The legislation provided $1,000 bonus checks for approximately 179,000 teachers and principals in Florida, as well as $600 million for teacher pay.
However, the legislative action has not alleviated the problem facing school districts.
The shortages are so dire that the Osceola County School Board – located in central Florida – voted in June to hire 140 teachers from South America to make up for the shortage of teachers domestically.
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Steve Stewart is a senior contributor at The Florida Capital Star.