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Educators voice their concerns and hopes ahead of a new school year

A man reaches down to grab colorful backpacks out of a rolling tray on the sidewalk. Behind him, a yellow school bus is parked.
Gabriella Paul
WUSF Public Media
Joey Fernandez, a physical education teacher at Wharton High School, loads backpacks stocked with school supplies into a yellow school bus. Ahead of the first day of school, Wharton High School teachers and faculty distributed over 200 backpacks to around 70 Tampa households.

Along with the difficulties of staff shortages, teachers and school districts are also facing scrutiny around what students are taught in the classroom.

This week on Florida Matters, we discuss the challenges students and teachers face as a new school year begins.

Schools in most counties in the greater Tampa Bay region open on Wednesday. And school districts are facing teacher shortages, with some missing hundreds.

One solution — signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year — aims to ease the shortage by allowing veterans without credentials to teach.

But that's led to criticism from educators.

First, host Matthew Peddie talks with Brandt Robinson, a history teacher at Dunedin High School, and Theoni Soublis, a professor of education at the University of Tampa. They discuss teacher morale amid new laws around the teaching of race, gender identity and sexual orientation.

RELATED: Tampa teachers hand-deliver school supplies before the first day of school

Later in the show, we hear from Nadia Combs, the chair of the Hillsborough County School Board. She explains the funding for the county’s schools this year and how the district is working around a teacher shortage of over 600.

And last, Peddie and Tampa Bay Times education reporter Jeff Solochek discuss how bus drivers are dealing with shortages as well.

In the conversation excerpt below, they also talked about possible book banning spurred by parents and how upcoming school board races could affect the school year after election season.

Jeff Solochek on book banning and upcoming school board races
Books on a library bookshelf

You can listen to the rest of the conversations by clicking on the “Listen” button above. Or you can listen on the WUSF app under “Programs & Podcasts.”

Hi there! I’m Dinorah Prevost and I’m the producer of Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show. That basically means that I plan, record and edit the interviews we feature on the show.
I am the host of WUSF’s weekly public affairs show Florida Matters, where I get to indulge my curiosity in people and explore the endlessly fascinating stories that connect this community.