Florida is facing a teacher shortage amid students and staff returning to classrooms.
The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, surveyed districts across Florida and found there was a 67 percent increase in vacancies compared to this time last year.
FEA Vice President Carole Gauronskas (pictured above) said a lot of teachers left the profession due to the COVID pandemic. There are approximately 5,000 teacher positions and 3,700 staff jobs unfilled.
“Many have taken early retirement,” Gauronskas said. “For those who’ve had underlying health issues that cannot be accommodated, they left the classroom setting for a safer environment.”
The union also pointed out teacher pay is a big reason for the drop in teachers as well. However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has worked to increase teacher pay, most recently providing teachers of the 2020-2021 school year with $1,000 bonus checks.
“This is a small token for us to just say thank you, we do appreciate what you guys are doing and what you’ve been able to accomplish,” DeSantis said.
Numerous school districts are facing bus driver shortages, requiring districts to get creative with routes and measures to ensure students get to school on time.
“Recruiting and retaining bus drivers was a struggle pre-pandemic, but the labor shortage in general has exacerbated the issue not only for us but for districts everywhere,” said Erin Maloney, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Public Schools to Florida Politics.
Similar to the classroom, COVID has had a negative impact on bus drivers and the need to quarantine drivers and their substitute drivers when tested positive for COVID.
“What’s hitting us most now is providing substitute drivers for those being quarantined,” said Marion County school districts spokesman Kevin Christian. “When you have a shortage compounded by quarantined drivers, that’s extra challenging.”
Substitute teachers may be called up to fill positions, which raises concerns over un-certified teachers leading classrooms amid the shortage.
“Eventually, we’re not going to have teachers in the classroom. We’ll have substitute teachers instead of certified teachers,” said Liliana Ruido, who is with Broward Teachers Union.
– – –
Grant Holcomb is a reporter at the Florida Capital Star and The Star News Network. Follow Grant on Twitter and direct message tips.
Background photo “Fund Public Schools” by Florida Education Association, photo “Carole Gauronskas” by Carole Gauronskas.