Q&A of the Day – Florida Teacher Recruitment Plans 

Today’s entry: Brian, I appreciate Governor DeSantis’ creative efforts to address Florida’s teacher shortage, however I wonder what the impact of these new programs will be longer term on students. Is there any information or research available regarding how he made these determinations? 

Bottom Line: I’m going to reverse-engineer your question a bit because context I think is key before attempting to answer it. While our focus is naturally Florida’s teacher shortage - according to the US Department of Education there isn’t even a US territory in which there isn’t currently a shortage of teachers. From states as large as California, to territories as small as Guam, there’s a shortage of teachers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the national shortage was 110,000 prior to the pandemic and will nearly double to 200,000 by 2025. That context is key in my view for a few very important reasons.  

  • The shortage isn’t unique to any location 
  • The shortage isn’t specific to any specific issue 
  • A change in tactics is required to bridge the gap   

Those three key facts are essentially relevant in this conversation. There are many, including the teachers’ unions, which have suggested Florida’s Parental Rights in Education laws are responsible for Florida’s teacher shortage. Try telling the folks in America Samoa that one. There’s zero evidence Florida’s laws have had any negative impact. In fact, Florida’s teacher shortage – which is approximately 7,000 currently, is actually below the national average relative to our size. Florida’s population accounts for 6.7% of the national population – yet Florida’s teacher shortage is 4.7% of the national total. There’s a storyline you’ll almost certainly not hear reported elsewhere. What’s more is that there isn’t any specific issue keeping would be teachers away or that’s leading to current teachers defecting from the profession. While compensation is commonly the area of focus – especially via the union mouth pieces, there is no clear connection between teacher pay and the relative number of teacher shortages in individual states. Obviously, compensation matters, but that’s never been a driving force behind why people have entered the profession in the first place.  

One of the biggest catalysts behind the shortage is this factoid: 

  • Nearly 30% of teachers leave the profession within their first five years 

However, the single biggest issue is this one: 

  • Those enrolled in undergraduate education programs declined by greater than 50% last decade 

This illustrates two huge headwinds. Close to a third of those who do become certified educators decide they don’t want it to be their career once in the classroom, but far more still just aren’t interested in becoming educators. Now the state of Florida has dramatically increased teacher compensation – including having one of the highest starting salaries for incoming teachers in the country. Additionally, the bonus program was overhauled in recent years to the general satisfaction of teachers. In other words, to whatever extent money factors into defections, Florida’s been aggressive in addressing the concern. Beyond that, it's nothing new for people to career hop. It’s a matter of fact that fewer than half of college grads in up in a career which directly pertains to a career field. Education actually dramatically outperforms other degree fields in this regard. That’s another huge fact which is often omitted from these conversations. So that takes us to recruitment and the creativity introduced by the governor.  

Governor DeSantis outlined new state initiatives aimed at addressing Florida’s teacher shortage. The plan includes issuing one-time bonuses to retired veterans and first responders who enter the teaching profession under the state’s recently enacted law. A new apprenticeship certification program in which those with an associate’s degree could become a classroom apprentice for two years in order to become eligible for a teaching certificate. Additionally, he introduced a scholarship program for existing teachers which would cover the costs of a master’s program – which again addresses a retention issue.  

You asked how these decisions were made. There were two primary considerations. The first came directly from teachers through a series of roundtable sessions statewide with state education officials. Those were largely aimed at retention. The second consideration was made by the Florida Board of Education regarding longer-term recruitment. It was through their due diligence the determination was made that retired veterans and first responders represented good candidates to become educators - in addition to creating an apprenticeship program. Time will obviously tell how effective all of this will be, but what’s clear is that doing things the same way as we always have in education will only continue to result in even greater teacher shortages in the future. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods.  

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com  

Gettr, Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio  

iHeartRadio: Use the Talkback feature – the microphone button on our station’s page in the iHeart app.   

Teacher in classroom

Photo: Getty Images

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