JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Industry experts say the problem is pretty simple, nobody wants to be a teacher anymore. For multiple reasons, it’s seen less and less like a viable, fulfilling, career option.
The regional director of Teach for America said – the solution is simple – take steps to make teaching an attractive career once again.
A Florida Education Association report showed more than 9,500 teaching and support staff positions across the state of Florida are vacant.
It says the shortage is so wide-ranging, that more than 450,000 Florida students may have started last school year without full-time, certified teachers in their classrooms.
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Regional Director of Teach for America, Lakeisha Wells-Palmer says there is a shortage because it’s a tough job that not everyone can do.
“We are responsible for academically growing and supporting students on a day to day basis.” Wells-Palmer said. “Teachers are with students for more than eight hours a day. So the profession is hard in itself.”
A survey of high school students found that only 5% were interested in becoming teachers, and that survey was from four years ago.
Teacher college prep programs saw a 23% decrease in participation between 2008 and 2016.
Pay is also a concern. While Florida has made recent moves to increase the base salary for new teachers, the overall average teacher salary in Florida is $51,167 -- below the national average of $65,293.
“We are the most needed profession, yet we get paid the least we are the ones that create the next generation, next generation of doctors, lawyers, and other key professions,” Wells-Palmer said. “And teacher pay is something that needs to be addressed.”
To address these issues, the FEA is asking the state education department to take immediate steps including:
- Hiring and developing more new teachers
- Boosting salaries to at least the national average
- Allowing good-performing teachers to get longer-term contracts.
Another issue turning teachers away is the increased politicization of the job.
Some teachers told News4JAX that new, ill-defined restrictions on classroom instruction, such as the law critics call the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ policy and the ‘Stop WOKE’ act and other recent legislation, have stripped away a lot of the professional satisfaction of the job.
They say the role of a teacher as a mentor and source of support to students is an attractive aspect of the profession, but one that is quickly disappearing in Florida.