TALLAHASSEE — Voters throughout the great state of Florida showed their support for our students and educators on Tuesday, with referendums benefitting local public schools passing in multiple counties. Floridians want strong public schools that provide every child — regardless of race, background, gender identity, sexual orientation, ZIP code or ability — with the education they deserve and need.
“Voters realize that public schools educate most of Florida’s children, nearly 3 million students, and they know schools need resources and staff in order to best serve those kids,” said Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar. “We look forward to working with the newly re-elected governor’s administration and state lawmakers to ensure that public schools are fully funded, and to address this state’s severe shortage of teachers and support staff. Voters want, and our students need, fully staffed and well-funded public schools. Strong public schools are the foundation for Florida’s future success.”
There is much work to be done. Currently, Florida ranks 44th in the nation in education spending per student. Our public schools have a massive shortage of teachers and staff, with hundreds of thousands of students starting school each year without a qualified, professionally trained teacher in their classroom. In August 2022, the FEA counted a total of 10,771 advertised vacancies on district websites, with 6,006 for teachers and 4,765 for support staff such as paraprofessionals, bus drivers, food-service staff, custodians and other essential employees.
Not surprisingly, Florida’s average pay for educators also falls near the bottom nationally. Despite moves over the past few years to increase salaries, Florida ranks 48th in the nation for average teacher pay.
Voters understand the value of supporting public education. As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, referendums passed in 12 counties will increase local funding for educator salaries, school operations and/or safety.
As we look ahead to the next legislative session, FEA calls on state lawmakers to stand with Florida voters and take action to lift up our students and public schools. Addressing the teacher and staff shortage must be a top priority — Florida’s longstanding problem has become a crisis for our students and their parents. Public schools must be able to retain and recruit the educators our students need.
The most basic and easiest way to begin solving the educator shortage is to restore fairness to educator pay. More than 20 laws govern how Florida’s teachers are paid, and those laws have created an “experience penalty,” meaning that teachers with 10 or more years of experience can end up earning the same as a new hire. Repealing those laws would help ensure teachers can be paid fairly and make districts better able to retain and recruit educators.
Other actions that lawmakers can take quickly include:
- Stop bashing teachers and staff! Show educators respect by uplifting the great work they do instead of demonizing them to score political points.
- Empower teachers and staff to do their jobs and to address the needs of all students, regardless of race, background, gender identity, sexual orientation, ZIP code or ability.
- Treat teachers as professionals by allowing them to choose curriculum materials and methods to meet the state standards.
- Demonstrate a commitment to professional excellence. Restore funding for teachers who earn a national board certification.
- Reduce standardized testing. Let teachers teach and students learn. Teachers did not go into the profession to be test administrators; we must minimize standardized testing so we can maximize learning opportunities.
Reduce endless paperwork. Any paperwork that is not directly related to improving student performance, should not be part of educators’ jobs.
- Spend time in our shoes. Elected officials can spend a week, or a day, in our schools with teachers and/or staff to better understand what our students need.
- Encourage teachers and staff who have left to return by making these immediate changes and addressing long-term solutions.
The above quick actions are in addition to the longer term solutions for Florida’s teacher and staff shortage that can be addressed in the next legislative session.
CONTACT: Joni Branch, email@example.com, (850) 201-3223
The Florida Education Association is the state’s largest association of professional employees, with 150,000 members. FEA represents PreK-12 teachers, higher education faculty, educational staff professionals, students at our colleges and universities preparing to become teachers and retired education employees.