JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — News numbers from the Florida Department of Education show the state is making progress in addressing teacher shortages in Northeast Florida and across the state.
According to the state stats released Tuesday, Florida schools will begin the school year down 4,776 teachers.
It represents an 8% drop in vacancies compared to the year prior.
In Northeast Florida, vacancies dropped by roughly 30% compared to last year.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. sees the improvement as a sign the state’s policies are working.
“The investment in teacher salaries by Governor DeSantis of about $3 billion over the last three or four years, the teacher apprenticeship program, the military pathways, the alternative pathways, the extension of the temporary certificate from three to five years,” said Diaz.
According to DOE’s numbers, Florida’s teacher vacancy rate is nearly 40% lower than the national average.
“We’re destroying this myth that teacher vacancies are growing,” said Diaz.
But Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, pointed out the union counted nearly 7,000 teaching vacancies statewide just five days ago.
“My daughter just started 9th grade in Volusia County, and she does not have an English teacher to start the year. This is her third consecutive year where for at least part of the year she will not have all her teachers,” said Spar.
Nikki Fried, Chair of the Florida Democratic Party told Action News Jax she trusts the union’s tally and cast doubt on the state’s numbers.
“We’ve seen patterns from the DeSantis administration where they hide the ball. They hide numbers, they hide figures, they look at things differently than the general calculations and so these numbers are inaccurate,” said Fried.
Diaz on the other hand argued it’s the unions who are playing fast and loose with the numbers.
“Unfortunately, the teachers union has become a group of political activists that are putting out myths and blatant lies and we have to correct that, correct the record and put out the actual facts from the horse’s mouth which is the actual employer, the actual districts in our state,” said Diaz.
There will be another update on teacher vacancies from DOE coming out in September.
Diaz said he’s optimistic positions will continue to be filled over the next month.
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