New numbers make clear the severity of staff shortages in our schools

TALLAHASSEE — As senators may take up a bill Tuesday that would help get more support staff working in our schools, a new count of advertised vacancies makes clear just how desperate the situation is. Florida’s districts simply don’t have enough school bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food-service workers, custodians and other essential staff to serve our students.

“We are asking lawmakers to put political divisions aside and focus their full attention on measures that will help retain and recruit support staff and teachers for our public schools,” said Florida Education Association (FEA) President Andrew Spar. “House Bill 1017 (Senate Bill 1576), addressing critical shortages of staff, should be one part of a multi-pronged effort to get more people working in our schools. At base, we need fair, competitive pay for all school employees, pay that recognizes and values experience.”

As of Jan. 10, the Florida Education Association found 5,222 advertised open non-instructional positions, including 816 teacher aides, 1,098 Exceptional Student Education (ESE) paraprofessionals and 296 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) paraprofessionals. Nearly every school district is looking for bus drivers, custodians and food-service staff. The Jan. 10 non-instructional vacancy count does not include Miami-Dade County, as a clear count could not be determined through the district website.

This month’s number is substantially higher than the vacancy count at the beginning of this school year. On Aug. 2, there were 3,753 support staff positions advertised on district websites. Normally, vacancies drop as a school year progresses. This year, the staff shortage has instead ballooned. The picture is even worse compared to this time last year. On Jan. 10, 2021, there were 1,796 advertised non-instructional vacancies.

Support staff vacancies come on top of a severe teacher shortage. On Jan. 10, there were 4,359 advertised teacher vacancies compared to 2,368 on Jan. 11, 2021. Figures include Miami-Dade. The counts do not include permanent substitutes filling many positions that are no longer being advertised, which means that the shortage is likely more serious than illustrated. The number of advertised teacher vacancies also has remained stubbornly high this school year. In the first week of August, it was 4,961.

To address the shortages of teachers and school support staff, FEA is calling for the governor and Legislature to:

  • Provide fair, competitive salaries that value experience for all education employees.
  • Give highly qualified teachers the opportunity to earn multi-year contracts rather than face dismissal annually.
  • Treat all education employees with the professional respect they deserve.

House Bill 1017/Senate Bill 1576 focuses on education staff professionals in our public schools. The bill directs districts to first determine which support staff positions are most severely understaffed, and then to fund incentives to recruit and retain employees in these “critical shortage” areas. The bill also requires districts to provide paraprofessionals with career development opportunities.

HB 1017/SB 1576 is scheduled to be taken up Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee, which meets 10 a.m. to noon.


CONTACT: Joni Branch, joni.branch@floridaea.org, (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.

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