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Back to school, missing nearly 7,000 teachers

TALLAHASSEE — Each child gets only one first day of kindergarten, one first day of middle school and one first day of their senior year. Florida’s educators are dedicated to making sure each of those first days, and every school day that follows, are full of learning and joy.

Unfortunately, thousands of students will show up to their first day of school in Florida this year to find they don’t have a permanent teacher. There are currently nearly 7,000 teaching vacancies statewide, according to a new count of positions advertised on district websites. Advertised vacancies for school support staff stand at over 5,000, bringing the combined total to nearly 12,000 unfilled positions.

The sad reality is that Gov. DeSantis and his legislative allies’ anti-education agenda is harming Florida’s children. These politicians hope that by causing sustained chaos in public schools, they can undermine parents’ trust in their child’s neighborhood school with the ultimate goal of having a fully privatized education system. 

Just look at what has happened in the past few weeks. Parents and students have scrambled to deal with the latest AP course controversy, this time focused on a popular college-level psychology course thought initially to conflict with Florida’s restrictive new education laws. Book resellers report a steady stream of teachers turning over books from their classroom libraries, uncertain about whether picture books and literature might be judged illegal and banned. Parents have learned that, to meet Florida’s new academic standards, teachers must tell children that slavery was beneficial to Black people.

“Every single one of these situations stems directly from the fact that Gov. DeSantis is more focused on running for president than on being governor,” said FEA President Andrew Spar. “Parents are waking up to the reality that DeSantis’ attempts to appeal to his extremist base are harming their children’s freedom to learn, and they’re fighting back. Far too many children in Florida won’t have the first day of school they deserve. But Gov. DeSantis’ attacks are having an unintended consequence. They’re creating new coalitions to fight against his regressive agenda and for positive change. As students, parents, educators and community members of all races, places and religions come together to demand better for our students, we will make Florida a place where all children can thrive.”  

The Florida Education Association counts vacancies posted on district websites twice annually, in August and January. As of Aug. 7, there were 6,920 advertised vacancies for teachers, compared to 6,006 at this time last year. Advertised vacancies for support staff totaled 5,072, with bus driver positions open in almost every county. As with teacher vacancies, the staff number is up from last August, when 4,765 positions were advertised for bus drivers, teacher’s aides and paraprofessionals, custodians, food service personnel, school nurses and other education staff professionals.

A county-by-county breakdown of the vacancy numbers can be found here.

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