Teacher shortages are an ongoing issue in Florida

Photo of Jordan McCrary courtesy: McCrary

Among the many challenges post-COVID-19 is a depleted educational system. Many school districts in Florida are confronting a growing  teacher shortage.

The Florida Department of Education reports that the following areas in the 2023-24 school year are in high demand: Exceptional Student Education (ESE), English, Science-General, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), Reading, Math and Tech Education.

Jordan McCray, a third-year student at Florida A&M majoring in psychology and minoring in political science, is a second-grade reading tutor at Bond Elementary School. She can testify to these demands. 

She says the teacher shortages could be related to the environmental changes post-COVID 19. She says the new virtual learning and online classrooms were unfamiliar to some teachers. 

“There was a huge expectation placed upon to be able to help students adjust when they were learning the new material themselves,” McCray said.

“Many teachers were not up for the challenge despite going into education and wanting to change student lives.”

According to fldoe.org, the percentage of projected vacancies for 2023-2024 in certification areas such as ESE was 2,009 compared to 1,480 in 2022, 327 to 561 in English, 261 to 461 in Reading, and fourteen to 108 in Science-Physical.

However, fldoe.org also states that the 2021 Re-imagining Education and Career Help Act (REACH), also known as HB1507, will help identify professional needs and support those needs as data-informed policy options. 

 The REACH Act was filed in March of 2021 and sponsored by Republic Senator Clay Yarborough and Republican Representative Lauren Melo. The bill underwent three edits before it was finalized and approved by both chambers before being signed into law by Gov. DeSantis.

The revised provisions related to many things, such as local workforce development,  career and education planning courses and student centers.

However, many, including McCray, don’t believe the school boards are doing enough to address specific issues that are needed. She believes the first step is to ensure that the people holding these higher positions are doing it for the right reasons and want to make changes within the educational system. 

Another ongoing issue has been pointed out in Leon County by Truvon Hinton, a K-8 guest teacher, and that is the overall pay for teachers.

“I believe the first step is to increase the pay worldwide for teachers and give more opportunities to younger educators,” Hinton said. “I would fix the teacher shortage issue by offering better finances, paid time off, benefits and opportunities for young people.”

In October 2023, Democrat Senator Lori Berman proposed Senate Bill (SB) 136 that would increase the base salaries of full-time classroom teachers and preschool teachers to $65,000 a year. However, the bill did not move forward as it died in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee. The bill would have gone into effect in July 2024.

At this point, there’s no way to know when — or if — the teacher shortages will be resolved.