Report: Florida schools seeing 'critical shortage' of certified teachers

Florida schools are seeing a critical shortage of certified science, English and math teachers.

A new report by the Florida Department of Education says those subjects are among areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach those courses.

“We have a shortage because people aren’t entering the teaching profession like they used to because there’s no security in teaching,” Renna Lee Paiva said.

Paiva is president of the Clay County Education Association. She said those who have been in the education field for years are extremely concerned about the teacher shortage.

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In Duval County, a district spokesperson said there are 146 total vacancies at schools, with 21 open positions in math and four in science.

In St. Johns County, the district had 28 unfilled positions as of Jan. 7, including four in math and science.

Clay County Schools says it has 14 vacancies overall, with five in math and science.

“We start to see fewer freshman coming in and saying, ‘I want to be an elementary teacher or I want to be a biology teacher,’” Paul Parkison, chair of the University of North Florida’s childhood education program, said.

He told Action News Jax that the university starts recruitment early, educating incoming freshman about teaching opportunities.

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“We didn’t used to have to have those conversations, we’d have freshmen coming in that were already excited about being teachers,” he said. “We actually initiated a couple programs that are targeted toward particularly the secondary, our UNF graduates who didn’t consider teacher as their primary major. Maybe they’re a history major or a biology major.”

Local education experts, including Jacksonville Public Education Fund President Rachel Tutwiler Fortune, said the focus needs to be on higher pay.

“There are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities,” she said in a statement.

“Our pay scales, our benefits are all in jeopardy and it’s up to the legislators to fix it so we can give quality education to our kids -- which is our primary goal,” Paiva said.

Full statement from JPEF:
"The teacher shortage is a problem in Duval County as well as across our state and the nation, and there are many potential solutions, including higher pay and more career advancement opportunities. The Duval County School Board recently discussed one of these promising solutions -- creating a program to help public high students work toward a degree in education, in order to increase the number of aspiring teachers. This would be a win for Duval County students now and in the future, and we applaud Duval County Public Schools for exploring how we could adopt this innovative model -- known as "grow your own teacher" -- in Jacksonville."