The Florida Education Association reports that the teacher shortage is the worst it’s been since 2016. In 2016 there were roughly 1,370 vacancies by the end of the year. At the beginning of the 2021 school year, there were 5,000 vacancies in Florida schools. As the first semester came to a close in December, there were 5,100 vacancies reported. The shortages in Florida mirror the shortages that were happening all over the United States during 2016, and the same can be said for 2021. Education leaders, researchers, and many others were raising red flags in 2016 about a looming teacher crisis. Little did they know that a worldwide pandemic would change the landscape of education and push teachers to a breaking point. To give you a bigger picture of the enormity of the situation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics latest jobs report shows that the education field had 575,000 fewer local and state employees in October 2021 than it did in February 2020. The bureau also reported that between September and October 2021 there was a net loss of 65,000 education professionals.
In Florida alone, more than 450,000 students began the school year without certified, full-time teachers preparing and delivering instruction. Students arrive late to school because bus driver shortages force the drivers who are there to combine routes. Administrators scramble to cover classes because substitute teachers are difficult to find. Let’s look at some possible reasons for the education shortages.
Reasons for the shortages:
- Lack of qualified applicants – there are fewer new education graduates. There has been a steady decline in people completing teacher-education programs. Those who do apply are unprepared to take on all the demands of the day-to-day work that being an effective educator requires.
- Salary and benefits – Florida is ranked the 5th lowest in the nation when it comes to teacher compensation and many staff professionals earn poverty wages. Careers in many other fields offer better salaries and benefits.
- Working conditions – overcrowded classrooms, lack of support, and no autonomy over what is taught are causing discontent which translates to teachers leaving the profession.
- Single-year contracts – such contracts mean that teachers, no matter their experience, face the annual threat of job loss.
- Covid- 19 Pandemic – there’s no denying that the pandemic has added a whole new layer of uncertainty and stress to the education profession. The year-long shutdown was a nightmare for teachers. The stress of learning how to navigate online teaching was tough. The return to the classroom in August was equally stressful. Teachers, staff, substitutes, bus drivers and those who have concerns about their health have chosen to leave to mitigate their risk of getting Covid-19. Still, others don’t want to work in schools that have imposed masking, testing, and vaccine requirements. There are so many unknowns with teaching during a pandemic.
One thing is certain about the teacher shortage, regardless of the causes, there is a devastating and long-term impact on the children.
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.