JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Florida is currently experiencing one of its worst teacher shortages. The pandemic exacerbated an already existing problem of recruiting and retaining public school teachers.
“I worry that we still have a lot of openings,” Michelle Dillon said. “Pay is one of the main reasons.”
Michelle Dillon is the President of the St. Johns Education Association, a union for teachers. She helped fight for the recent pay increase.
“We couldn’t have been as successful this year without the support of the parents and the community who really stood up, because their child had an empty classroom,” Dillon said. “They saw the teachers walking out the door.”
After several negotiations, new teachers in St. Johns received a raise of $1,522 for teachers rated ‘effective,’ and a $2,029 raise for teachers rated ‘high effective.’
Teachers in Duval County will soon be getting increases ranging from $5,400 to $7,000 after voters approved the 1-mill rate increase, last year.
While this is a win for local teachers, Florida still misses the mark for teacher pay. The average starting salary for a new teacher is $42,844 and the average overall salary for public school teachers is $66,745, according to the National Education Association. Florida ranks 16th in the nation for starting pay at a little over $45,000, but for the average teacher salary, it’s close to last place. Florida ranks 48th in the nation with an average pay of $51,230.
“That makes me sad,” Dillon said. “Makes me worried for the future of public education.”
There are thousands of teacher vacancies across Florida. The Florida Department of Education reported a critical teacher shortage in seven school subjects, with English being the number one subject without enough teachers.
Action News Jax reached out to local, large school districts to get an idea of the number of teacher vacancies for the new school year.
- Duval County Public Schools reports 342 vacancies
- St. Johns County Public Schools reports 93 vacancies
- Clay County Public Schools reports 55 vacancies
- Nassau County Public Schools reports 23 vacancies
Additionally, a spokesperson with Duval County Public Schools sent a statement regarding how it plans to fill those positions. Here is the plan for retention and recruitment in Duval:
- $1,000 ESSIR bonuses paid to teachers who completed the ‘22-23 school year.
- Referendum supplemental pay will begin on the first paycheck of ‘23-24 school year
- Expanded wellness benefits to include Headspace/Ginger and free therapy visits.
- Increased teacher support on campus through our Teacher Development and Support team.
- Preferred location changes include the opportunity to transfer to school campuses closer to their home or placement within their area of expertise.
- Increased beginning teacher compensation from $39,500 in 2019 to $48,700 in 2022.
- Participated in 34 hiring fairs, including visiting local colleges and universities to directly recruit teachers.
- Offer free tutoring for applicants to pass subject area certification exams. Including a free testing voucher to individuals who complete the tutoring program.
- Offer additional supplementals for hard-to-staff areas.
- International recruitment -- We’ve hired over 150 international teachers since 2019.
A spokesperson for Nassau County Public School said, 97.5% of its positions are filled.
“We have made significant progress in improving teacher pay over the past couple of years and we feel like this has enhanced our ability to attract teachers to the [Nassau County] district,” Mark Durham, a spokesperson for the district, said.
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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis approved more than $1 billion for teacher pay in this year’s budget. Each district will need to negotiate those raises within their teacher’s unions.