Jan 20, 2023 - News

Tampa Bay school districts look to fill hundreds of teacher vacancies

Illustration of a teacher's chalkboard with "Now Hiring" written across it.

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The nation's teacher shortage is continuing into the new year, and it's straining Tampa Bay classrooms.

State of play: More than 4,400 teaching positions need to be filled statewide, according to the Florida Department of Education's last count in September. That's double the amount of pre-pandemic openings.

  • But the state teachers union says that the number of vacancies are far higher, roughly 5,300 as of this month, per an analysis of open roles posted on district websites, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Zoom in: In Tampa Bay, some districts have hundreds of openings to fill.

  • Hillsborough County had more than 530 teacher vacancies, WFTS reported last month, while Polk and Pasco had around 200 late last year.
  • "That's a large number of students who do not have or may not have a highly qualified skilled teacher in front of them every single day," Hillsborough County Schools superintendent Addison Davis told the station.

The intrigue: Local districts have been resorting to new methods to fill these vacancies. Pasco County is now using a cultural exchange program to find teachers, per WTSP.

The big picture: Across the country, teacher shortages have been worsening in public schools since the pandemic, with many citing burnout and "the desire for better pay" as top reasons for departures, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

Between the lines: Gov. Ron DeSantis approved $800 million in funding last spring to raise the average minimum teacher pay to at least $47,500.

  • But the state allocations have been held up in some districts, like Hillsborough, due to disagreements between districts and union leaders over salary plans, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

What they're saying: Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association union, called the vacancies the "most pressing issue facing the education of Florida's students."

  • Spar said statewide teacher vacancies have increased more than 200% compared to five years ago.

The other side: A state Department of Education spokesperson called the state's teacher shortage "mythical," considering that the vacancies represent 2.4% of Florida's total teaching positions.

  • The spokesperson also told Axios that the teachers union's vacancy data is flawed.
  • "An advertised position on a school district website does not mean there is a current vacancy," a spokesperson said, adding that it could be to plan for the upcoming school year or prepare for future teacher retirements, among other reasons.

What we're watching: The department will conduct its annual survey of teacher vacancies in September.


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