Florida Faces Teacher Shortage Crisis as Vacancies Hit Record High, Educators Blame Pay Gap

Teachers are the heartbeat of our educational system, yet Florida’s school districts have the most difficulty filling positions, ranking among the poorest in the country.

“It’s been a huge issue in Florida for quite some time. “It’s gotten progressively worse,” said Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association.

New research findings from Brown University’s Annenberg Institute and the ADP Research Institute show job openings as well as supply and demand across the nation.

According to the Annenberg report, Florida comes last with over 5,000 positions. Local educators attributed this to teacher turnover, a lack of qualified candidates for teaching, and the environment.

Florida Faces Teacher Shortage Crisis as Vacancies Hit Record High, Educators Blame Pay Gap

“Education is stressful. “It’s gotten especially stressful with covid and some of the social attacks that have occurred in the classroom,” said Lee Bryant, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.

Bryant taught economics classes until last year, and he believes that paying teachers is one way to value them.

“I bargain with Pinellas County Schools each year. They are good folks. They would gladly pay us more if they could. But with limited funds, there’s only so much you can do,” Bryant explained.

That’s where the state legislature comes in, with its bills and budget. Florida ranks 48th in teacher pay, and earnings are not keeping up.

“In one district in instance, in 2010, a teacher with 25 years of experience earned $60,000 per year. A teacher in that district now with 25 years of experience earns $58,000,” Spar added.

Spar went to various Tampa Bay area schools on Wednesday. He stated that classrooms across the state are dealing with the impact.

“I have a daughter who’s in ninth grade in Volusia County on the other coast, and the first nine weeks of the school year she didn’t have an English teacher,” Spar said. “This is the third year in a row that my daughter has not had her complement of teachers for the entire school year.”

He stated that this year’s state budget contains a raise, but not enough.

“Even in classrooms today, I heard, ‘Just let us educate.’ “Just let us teach and make sure we can pay our bills,” Spar said during his visit to the Hillsborough County School District.

Spar claimed that progress on pay-related issues this past parliamentary session was undermined. He stated that there are more than 20 Florida rules affecting teacher compensation, some of which make it more difficult for experienced instructors to get paid more.

Spar is seeing an increasing number of long-time teachers leave before retirement, which is unusual.

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