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In the States: Is Florida Department of Education Minimizing the Staffing Crisis?

The “In the States” feature by Kaitlyn Brennan is a weekly update to keep members informed on state-level activities impacting the education and educator preparation community.

As the school year begins, teacher vacancies across the state of Florida are a top concern; yet the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Association are at odds over whose data is more reflective of the reality. In a press release issued by Florida’s Department of Education (FDOE) last week, the state’s Commissioner of Education, Manny Diaz, touted a near 10% decrease in teacher vacancy slots at the beginning of the new school year versus one year ago. As reported by FDOE, the state currently has roughly 4,776 open teaching positions — an 8% decrease in the number of teacher vacancies reported at the same time last school year. But Florida’s Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teacher’s union, says that those numbers simply are not accurate. Last week, the FEA reported that nearly 7,000 teaching positions remained vacant at the beginning of the school year. In a statement, a representative from the FEA said:

“Now is not the time to sugarcoat or downplay the teacher and staff shortage. It’s bad, and kids are losing out. The Florida Department of Education can do its best to minimize the staffing crisis facing Florida’s public schools, but the truth is in the numbers. We stand by FEA’s August 7 count of vacancies listed on school districts’ websites, just as we stand by the counts we have conducted over the past several years. Due to low pay and a divisive political climate of fear and intimidation, the teacher, and staff shortage has gone from bad to worse under the DeSantis administration.”

The Florida teacher vacancy numbers from both the FDOE and FEA do not include the number of teachers across the state who are underqualified.