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Florida’s ‘Critical’ Teacher Shortage Is Getting Worse, Union Warns

Florida faces a worsening shortage of teachers and education professionals, with low staff pay and pandemic concerns being blamed for job vacancies that have increased more than 67% since August 2020, the state’s largest education union says.

The Sunshine State started the new school year in August with nearly 5,000 teacher vacancies and nearly 4,000 openings for education staff, including bus drivers, teacher aides, cafeteria workers and janitors, Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar said in a video posted Monday.

But instead of vacancies gradually being filled, Spar said the shortage has gotten worse.

Low pay and staff pandemic concerns are being blamed for a more than 67% rise in job vacancies throughout Florida's schools since August 2020.
Low pay and staff pandemic concerns are being blamed for a more than 67% rise in job vacancies throughout Florida’s schools since August 2020.

via Associated Press

“We are now two months into the school year and by this point those numbers typically drop significantly,” Spar said in the clip posted to TikTok. “However, this year is different.”

Statewide, as of last week, there were openings for nearly 5,100 teachers and more than 4,000 education staffers, Spar said, citing the union’s latest count of job listings.

Palm Beach County, the state’s fifth-largest school district, had some of the biggest gaps, with 1,024 instructional vacancies on Aug. 2, according to the union. That number had risen by 253 as of Tuesday, according to the county’s hiring website.

“We are in a critical state here in Florida regarding these vacancies. We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to do more,” Spar said.

The union has cited a number of reasons for the hiring shortfall, including low pay, and stress and uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Teacher salaries in Florida are among the lowest in the nation, more than $10,000 below the national average, according to the National Education Association’s latest annual ranking, which put Florida 49th during the 2019-2020 school year. A more recent calculation that included money the state legislature allocated for beginning teachers boosted the state one notch to 48th place, according to the FEA.

That pay bump for new teachers, spearheaded by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), has been criticized as too little and neglectful of veteran teachers.

Anna Fusco, president of the teacher’s union in Broward County, which had 418 instructional job vacancies posted last week, blamed pay disparities for schools’ high job turnover.

“We are getting beat up by the government, parents, students, and management,” Fusco told CBS Miami. “And we make $47,500” in salary.

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on the job vacancies.

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