South Florida faces a massive teacher shortage that local unions say is mostly tied to salary and COVID concerns.
On August 6, Click Orlando reported that the shortage of educators across the state was projected to rise to 10,000 unfilled positions. That is double the amount of vacancies that Florida schools saw in 2019.
Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, sounded the alarm two years about the shortage of educators. However, districts have been dragging their feet to address the major problem affecting interest in the ageless profession.
The salary for a Florida teacher is one of the worst in the nation. At $49,000 a year on top of the pandemic and problematic response to COVID concerns given by Governor Ron DeSantis, it is hard to find certified educators to fill the open positions.
Discussing the striking reality of teacher pay, Ana Fusco of the Broward Teachers Union explained the problem succinctly.
“A first-year teacher making the same dollar amount as a 15-year teacher,” she said.
The teacher shortage is not only the concern facing Florida schools. There is also a 4,000-person shortage in support staff as well. Support staff includes positions that help coordinate the school day’s efficient running, such as bus drivers, teacher assistants, and cafeteria personnel. These positions are some of the lowest paid in education.
Another unfortunate result of the low interest in teaching is that it disproportionately affects different regions of Florida.
While Central Florida counties such as Seminole, Sumter, Orange and Lake only have a 1 percent shortage, South Florida countries such as Dade are in a much more dire situation and will have to heavily rely on substitute teachers to fill in the gaps.
It should be noted that Broward County, also in South Florida, has the largest Black population and therefore, Black students may be the most affected by the shortage. With two Broward schools sitting on the low-performing list and several on the low-income list, lack of qualified educators will de detrimental.
Florida currently employs about 200,000 teachers statewide.