FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—Florida schools saw an eight percent decline in teacher vacancies heading into the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year compared to the previous year, The Daily Signal has learned.
Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. will announce Tuesday that Florida schools will have 4,776 total teacher vacancies as students head into classrooms this year. That figure compares to 5,208 vacancies that the state had at the start of the last school year — an 8% decline in teacher vacancies, according to the state’s Department of Education.
“It has been a top priority of the Governor, the Florida Legislature and the Department of Education to recruit high-quality teachers to fill our classrooms,” Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. said in a statement. “It is clear from the nearly 10% decline in teacher vacancies reported today that their hard work has paid off.”
Florida’s current vacancy numbers leave the state with an average of 1.28 vacancies per school, making the state’s vacancy rate less than the United States national average of 2 vacancies per school, the Florida Department of Education noted.
The news comes amidst media coverage, like Newsweek’s, suggesting that “Florida’s Teacher Shortage Is Getting Worse.” Citing the state teacher’s union, the Florida Education Association (FEA), the outlet claimed that Florida has almost 7,000 positions vacant heading into the upcoming school year.
FEA President Andrew Spar blamed the vacancies on Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis‘s education polices, which include banning classroom discussions of gender ideology and sexuality for young students.
“Far too many children in Florida won’t have the first day of school they deserve,” Spar said in a statement, according to Newsweek.
“But Gov. DeSantis’ attacks are having an unintended consequence,” Spar added. “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.”
Spar similarly told a local Florida outlet that “it’s easy but it’s hard to fix the teacher shortage problem.” He added, “It’s easy in the sense that the first thing that can happen is the governor and his allies and lawmakers can stop vilifying teachers and can start lifting up teachers. They can allocate more resources towards our public schools.”
According to Florida’s Education Department, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, and Pinellas counties saw a decrease of 31% in teacher vacancies from last year, meaning these counties reportedly have a total of 389 fewer teacher vacancies. Meanwhile, the counties of Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia each saw a total of 108 fewer teacher vacancies, which the Education Department said is a decrease of 14% from last year.
The counties of Clay, Duval, Nassau, and St. Johns now have 157 fewer teacher vacancies, a decrease of 29%, according to the department, and the counties of Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton saw a total of 104 fewer teacher vacancies, which is reportedly a decrease of 38% from last year.
The decrease in teacher vacancies is likely partially due to the education department’s efforts to shorten the processing time of educator certificates through the Bureau of Educator Certification (BEC). The department also suggested that Florida’s efforts, under DeSantis’ leadership, to recruit and retain teachers account for the decrease in vacancies.
“Since May of 2023, BEC has processed 23,972 teacher certifications with a focus on proactively working with district school superintendents to address their certification needs,” the department said in a release. “In addition, BEC is sending superintendents a daily communication to indicate individuals who have received a temporary certificate and are still awaiting employment as a teacher in Florida.”
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