Florida is facing a troubling shortage of teachers with thousands of positions still open, according to CNN. There are more than 5,000 openings for teachers and over 4,000 more for other school staff positions, according to the Florida Education Association (FEA).
The organization's initial findings from a survey show that there are 67% more teacher vacancies in August 2021 compared to August 2020. They also revisited their study in October and noticed another increase in openings.
"These numbers and trends are an alarm bell going off for our public schools, and state officials need to start listening," FEA President Andrew Spar said in a Sunday (October 10) TikTok video. "Educators have made clear why they're leaving our schools, and young people will readily share why they don't want to pursue an education career."
The organization also outlined two big contributing factors to the shortage: the COVID-19 pandemic and low pay.
The turbulent nature of the pandemic constantly worries both prospective and current teachers, especially in a state where the virus is reportedly rampant. State officials have also made it challenging for schools to try and reduce COVID-19 spread, from threatening school districts to revoking salaries over mask mandates.
As for pay, reading teacher Gretchen Robinson told CNN that it's a "huge issue." FEA says the average salary for teachers in the state ranks 49th in the nation -- more than $10,000 less than the national average. The national average last school year was $65,090, according to the National Education Association.
With fewer educators on hand, it makes the learning environment more difficult for both teachers and students.
"I would love to be making what my colleagues in states with an actual teaching budget, who are veteran teachers like me, are making. That would be great, considering the insane hours I put in during this (pandemic) situation," Robinson said. "Even at the best of times, teaching is challenging -- it's a challenge I love. But right now, it's brutal."
You can read more about the situation here.