State Attacks Teaching Shortage

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Florida is launching a massive effort to recruit more than 30,000 new teachers in the coming year.

The Department of Education wants to put $30 million into signing bonuses, housing assistance and tuition repayment, among other ideas. Universities are also offering new programs to potential teachers.

But some educators say the biggest obstacle is still the salaries.

College student Chantel Peacock didn’t know she wanted to be a teacher until recently when she took a job teaching other students about campus life. It seemed a perfect fit with her personality.

“I have a sincere passion with making a difference in the lives of children and their community.”

Chantel is the kind of person the state is trying to attract to fill more than 30,000 teacher vacancies by next year. Florida State University is reaching out to students who haven’t yet picked a career to convince them to consider teaching.

State lawmakers will consider a $30 million proposal that would offer incentives like signing bonuses, but educators say Florida may never solve its teacher shortage if it doesn’t boost teacher salaries. Florida teachers are in the bottom half of the country in teacher pay, and that’s a big reason teachers leave.

Teachers union spokesman Mark Pudlow says attracting new teachers isn’t enough if you keep losing them to other states.

“In Jefferson County I heard a story about a teacher who stayed where she lived, but crossed the border into Georgia and got an $11,000 raise.”

Still, with an average salary of 41 grand a year, teaching can look very attractive, but it might mean a move to a rural district or the inner city where the need is greatest.

The numbers of teachers needed for the coming year varies wildly by district. Bay County is said to need 210 new teachers. Calhoun needs 18, Franklin needs 12, Gulf County has 10 positions open, Holmes 23, Jackson 53, Liberty 18, Okaloosa 190, Wakulla 42, Walton 56 and Washington County needs 27 teachers.

For information on becoming a teacher, go to www.teachinflorida.org.


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