TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — The ongoing conflict between the DeSantis administration and the state’s largest teachers’ union added another chapter this week when the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) fired back at the union’s recent claim of 7,000 teacher vacancies statewide.
The FEA claimed that the state had 6,920 advertised vacancies for teachers, compared to 6,006 at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year.
“The sad reality is that Gov. DeSantis and his legislative allies’ anti-education agenda is harming Florida’s children,” the Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers union, argued in a press release on Thursday.
“These politicians hope that by causing sustained chaos in public schools, they can undermine parents’ trust in their child’s neighborhood school with the ultimate goal of having a fully privatized education system.”
“A BLATANT LIE”
On Tuesday, the state corrected the FEA’s claims, stating that there are 4,776 vacancies this year and only 5,208 at the start of last year.
Florida’s average of 1.28 vacancies per school is less than the national vacancy rate of 2 vacancies per school and lower than the state’s average last year of 1.4 vacancies per school.
“It has been a top priority of the Governor, the Florida Legislature and the Department of Education to recruit high-quality teachers to fill our classrooms,” Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. said. “It is clear from the nearly 10% decline in teacher vacancies reported today that their hard work has paid off.”
Diaz also took to Twitter to correct the FEA’s “blatant lie.”
Since May of 2023, FDOE’s Bureau of Educator Certification (BEC) has reportedly processed 23,972 teacher certifications.
The Department highlighted improvements in several regions, pointing to a significant improvement in several populous areas across the state. The press release reported a 31 percent decline in teacher vacancies from last year in Tampa-area school districts (Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties), a 14 percent decline in the Orlando-area districts (Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia), a 29 percent decline in Jacksonville-area districts (Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns) and a 38 percent decline in Pensacola-area districts (Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, and Walton).
TEACHER SHORTAGES: A LOCAL PROBLEM
In an article debunking the FEA’s inaccurate and misleading claims, The Capitolist’s Brian Burgess pointed out that state vacancies are disproportionately impacted by certain counties.
“Palm Beach County alone accounted for 45 percent of the state’s change in total number of vacancies this year. So maybe we have a Palm Beach County problem,” Burgess noted.
“The shortages are a highly localized problem that must be examined on a district-by-district basis. This is true both nationally, and right here in Florida.”