Florida needs more than 5,000 teachers, Florida Education Association says

JACKSONVILLE — A teacher shortage in Florida is getting worse as the school year progresses.

That’s according to the Florida Education Association, which counted over 5,000 teaching openings across the state.

Duval County Public Schools is currently trying to fill 212 open teaching positions, the FEA tells Action News Jax.

The FEA created a spreadsheet that shows teacher openings statewide from August 2016 to October 2021.

In Duval County, there were 19 teacher openings in August 2016; now there are 212 openings in October.

Nassau County went from 2 to 13, St. Johns went from 9 to 27, Clay County decreased slightly from 34 to 33, and Baker County went from 3 to 10.

”Many days we’re running 12 teachers short,” Elwood Thompson told Action News Jax.

Thompson teaches Social Sciences at Terry Parker High School. His school is so short on teachers, he couldn’t even step out to interview in-person with Action News Jax.

”We are so short, we definitely don’t have enough subs. If I could get somebody to cover for me I could do it. But I mean, literally, we’re covering each other all the time. That’s how short we are,” Thompson said over Zoom.

Thompson also serves as the professional development facilitator, helping new teachers come on board. He says many are afraid of working in schools because of COVID-19. Low pay is also an issue, he says, adding that the district doesn’t have the funds it needs to retain teachers

.Despite having had other job offers that would’ve paid more, Thompson’s students are the reason he stays in the classroom.

”A lot of teachers care about society as a whole. We do this because we want to make things better,” he said.

The FEA says the average Florida teacher makes around $10,000 dollars less than the national average.