All states are suffering from a teacher shortage, but the situation is so bad in one, that there are now more than 9,000 unfilled positions.
There is no avoiding talk about the American teacher shortage. Every industry appears to be struggling to retain employees, but for education, the situation is sinister. Kansas is short nearly 1,400 educators, as they face their worst documented vacancies ever. In California, schools are scrambling, as districts have no other choice than to fill slots with unqualified teachers. But one state, seemingly more than most others, is desperate for educators, and that state is none other than Florida, where it is now being reported that more than 9,000 teaching positions remain unfilled.
News4Jax reported that a recent announcement from a Florida Education Association revealed that somewhere around 9,500 positions, including those for educators and support staff throughout the Sunshine State, are unfilled. This finding is alarming many education officials within the state, as even last year, when these figures weren’t as high, more than 450,000 Florida students started the 2021-2022 school year without a permanent teacher. The teacher shortage is affecting everyone, but for one reason or another, Florida seems to be hit the hardest.
So why is the disparity in state educators now affecting the teacher shortage so intensely? For one thing, the situation has been brewing for years, but the pandemic, stress, pay, and contentious school battles have all culminated in this dire situation. In reality, fewer students have been seeking a career in education. Teacher college prep programs saw a decrease in participation of about 23% between 2008 and 2016. But again, this doesn’t answer the question as to why the lack of interest.
As the saying goes, cash is king, and the lack of pay is likely leading many away from the profession. Florida ranks nearly at the bottom of the barrel for teacher salaries. The state has enacted new legislation this year to increase pay in addressing the teacher shortage. But still, many officials have ridiculed the effort, saying the increases are minimal, and not enough to attract educators. As of now, the average teacher salary sits around $51,167, much below the national average of $65,293.
On top of little interest in the profession and lack of pay, there is another major concern that many sense might be driving teachers away from the southern state, adding to the massive teacher shortage. This year, Republican Gov. Ron Desantis signed sweeping legislation in an effort he touts as a major overhaul of education in the state. Many of these laws, like the Don’t Say Gay and Stop WOKE Act, are controversial to many teachers, especially those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. Opposers of these new laws think the legislation is hateful and biased toward this group, and some teachers have already stepped down in opposition.
For now, it appears that Florida schools will have to operate as best they can with what they have amid the teacher shortage crisis. Some districts have become creative in efforts to attract newcomers. One district began hiring teachers from South America to desperately fill vacancies. But despite the best efforts, overall, the state is struggling, and only time will tell if these endeavors will pay off, or leave the state in need of even more educators throughout the upcoming years.