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Florida is understaffed by more than 5,000 teachers, so high that it recounted the vacancies

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Kendall Tietz, DCNF

Florida has over 5,000 teacher vacancies and more than 4,000 openings for school staff positions, according to the Florida Education Association.

Data released by the Florida Education Association (FEA) in August showed vacancies figures so high that it recounted the vacancies, CNN reported.

FEA’s October data showed an increase in vacancies since August, FEA President Andrew Spar explained on TikTok Sunday.

Spar attributed the vacancies to “a funding shortage, rather than a teacher & staff shortage!” according to a TikTok video he posted on Monday.

Spar also criticized Florida’s Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’ “retaliation against school boards for doing what they believe is the right thing.”

School boards across the state have been involved in difficult conversations about mask mandates. On Thursday, the Florida Board of Education announced plans to sanction eight school districts for imposing mask mandates in violation of Desantis’ executive order that allows parents to opt their children out of such requirements.

Florida’s school staff shortage relates to the COVID-19 pandemic and low pay, according to the FEA.

“Florida lawmakers, it’s time that we address the real issues,” Spar said. “Let’s not follow the governor down the rabbit hole of Critical Race Theory, of mask mandates and all of those kinds of issues.”

FEA’s August data shows a 67% increase in the number of teacher vacancies compared to those in August 2020.

“We are now two months into the school year, and by this point, those numbers typically drop significantly,” Spar said in a TikTok video. “However, this year is different.”

Gretchen Robinson, a reading teacher at Orlando’s University High School, told CNN that pay is a “huge issue.”

“I would love to be making what my colleagues in states with an actual teaching budget, who are veteran teachers like me, are making,” Robinson said. “That would be great, considering the insane hours I put in during this (pandemic) situation.”

The FEA says staff and teacher shortage also result from “the stress and uncertainty caused by the pandemic,” job instability, lack of classroom freedom “due to heavy-handed policies established by the Legislature and the governor,” too much emphasis on testing, a “lack of respect for the profession” and the fact that Florida ranks 49th in U.S. teach pay, providing approximately $10,000 less than the average state.

The FEA will conduct its next survey in January, CNN reported.

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