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The Florida Roundup
The Florida Roundup is a live, weekly call-in show with a distinct focus on the issues affecting Floridians. Each Friday at noon, listeners can engage in the conversation with journalists, newsmakers and other Floridians about change, policy and the future of our lives in the sunshine state.Join our host, WLRN’s Tom Hudson, broadcasting from Miami.

Floridians weigh in on the state's teacher shortage

Backpacks hanging on a wall in a classroom. One of them is a white backpack with splashes of pink and purple, green, and blue symbols.
News Service of Florida
Yvonne zum Tobel, freelance reporter for WLRN, said there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 teacher vacancies in Florida.

Yvonne zum Tobel, freelance reporter for WLRN, said there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 teacher vacancies in Florida.

As part of Role Call, a statewide reporting project, WLRN has been visiting classrooms and schools over several months, examining government-funded incentive programs that aim to train and recruit teachers to see if they’re making a difference.

Yvonne zum Tobel, freelance reporter for WLRN, spoke Friday with Tom Hudson on The Florida Roundup about the project.

She said there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 teacher vacancies in Florida. Exceptional Student Education, which is designed to serve students with disabilities, has a high need for teachers.

“Elementary school teachers are also number two, and then followed by (English for Speakers of Other Languages), which my stories don't cover that, but STEM teachers, math and science teachers,” zum Tobel said.

She noted projections for teacher shortages don’t look great either.

RELATED: Universities, schools partner to train more qualified teachers, but shortage persists

“The projections really depend on the subject matter. So for ESE teachers, they’re projecting for the ‘24-‘25 school year, over 2,500. Elementary education, over 2,200. English, over, almost close to 600 … and math teachers, about 570.”

Listeners from across Florida, including educators, emailed The Florida Roundup about their thoughts on the teacher shortage.

Steven Koenig, who was a substitute teacher in Brevard County Public Schools for 16-plus years, said the vacancies aren’t surprising.

“Initially, my intention was to sub briefly and take steps to certify as a Florida educator. In short, resources have not been and are not now being responsibly gathered and allocated commensurate to need — whether you're looking at classroom aides, appropriately certified teachers, or adequate substitute instructors,” Koenig said.

“The projections really depend on the subject matter. So for ESE teachers, they’re projecting for the ‘24-‘25 school year, over 2,500. Elementary education, over 2,200. English, over, almost close to 600 … and math teachers, about 570.”
Yvonne zum Tobel, freelance reporter for WLRN

Martha Ford, a middle school social studies teacher who listened to the program with other teachers, said it’s been challenging to attract people to their level.

“Everyone seems afraid of middle school students, and there is perception that we are not as ‘sharp’ as high school teachers or are courses are somehow less academic,” Ford said. “We mostly hold the same certification as high school teachers but get no incentives for teaching high level (Advanced Placement) courses, have exhausting schedules and have a state high stakes end-of-course test!”

Antje Meissner, who teaches English Language Arts in a public school, also referenced the struggles teachers endure.

“… while I love working with the kids and have great administrators and parents, I struggle making ends meet with the salary I am making,” Meissner said. “Also, constant state testing (four times a year for ELA), a curriculum that does not meet the needs of my students and lack of independence to choose more appropriate materials, make it hard to feel that I am effectively making a difference in the lives of my students. Top that with the legislature making it impossible for our unions to meet their ever increasing goal posts for membership, and the added burden of having to scan all the books in my teacher library for approval and the burden gets to be too much.”

Christina Garcia, a retired teacher in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, voiced similar concerns about the influence of politics on education.

“I loved my career and have no regrets, however I am saddened by the devolution of public education in this state, under the current political regime. It seems that the GOP faction is hard at work dismantling public education at every level, from prek/K up to post-secondary. Teachers and students are not safe from the restrictions, discrimination, racism and myopia of the right wing policies that are increasing daily. It is heartbreaking to me as public education is dear to me,” Garcia said.

Koenig expressed the same sentiment.

“Who, in their pursuit of a teaching profession would want to teach in a state where politics and economics so severely limit what good teachers are forced to fashion into a lifestyle and are mandated to do … teach truth at a time when truth is not universally recognized?! Their love of the pursuit cannot withstand the harsh realities associated with the endeavor!”

Meissner shared some advice to other educators: “I love my job, but would highly recommend for people interested in teaching to move to a different state to teach until conditions in Florida improve.”

As WUSF’s digital news producer, I strive to serve others by sharing stories on our online platforms.