Duval Schools reports over 500 vacancies as Florida faces one of its largest teacher shortages

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Babe wake up, new school grades dropped

The number of teachers willing to enter the classroom in Florida this school year continues to dwindle and Duval County is no exception.

A new survey released by the Florida Education Association shows over 9,500 teaching and staff vacancies statewide. Around this time last year, the same agency reported nearly 5,000 shortages.

As of this week, Duval County Public Schools reported 529 vacancies for certified teachers, up 23 percent — nearly 100 positions — compared to the start of last school year. This year's vacancies are almost double the number Duval saw at the beginning of 2020-21 school year.

Experts say a mix of factors exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced an influx of educators to leave the field. Low pay, testing, stringent schedules and new laws have also been cited as reasons teachers are resigning.

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Duval County Public Schools recently published a series of videos featuring current and former educators discussing some of the perils that come with the job. Many cite low pay. The school district says a new property tax referendum — which will be up for voting on in August — could help boost morale because it will provide teachers with supplemental bonuses. Critics of the potential tax increase say the district should find other ways to boost pay.

The exact number of teacher shortages in Duval Schools this coming school year is still evolving.

In addition to vacancies, school district officials say there are 176 teachers who have not met their certification deadlines. If those teachers do not review their necessary certifications, it could result in further classroom openings.

"Our HR team is working individually with each member of that group [with lapsed recertifications], but it is likely that the overall vacancy number will increase further," said district spokesman Tracy Pierce. The district also reported 215 paraprofessional vacancies to date.

Pierce said new vacancy numbers in Duval County were just tabulated since June 30 marks the end of the school district's fiscal year and, in turn, a key date for employees who are planning to announce their departure.

Last school year, the district reported about 430 teacher vacancies, up nearly 58 percent from roughly 270 vacancies in 2020.

According to the Florida Education Association, this year's faculty and staff shortages could leave over 450,000 students without full-time, certified teachers. In Jacksonville, shortages last year left teachers scrambling to find substitutes to teach their lesson plans and students feeling cramped in classrooms with barely enough seats.

Anecdotally throughout last school year, some students told the Times-Union about situations where they would be rerouted to a school gymnasium or auditorium if there aren't enough adults on campus to handle teacher vacancies and absences. In other cases, classes are combined for one teacher to monitor all the students.

Emily Bloch is a youth culture and education reporter for The Florida Times-Union. Follow her on Twitter or email her. Sign up for her newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Duval Schools reports over 500 teacher vacancies as Florida faces one of its largest shortages