USF Education Majors Concerned About Shortage of Teachers in Florida

The limitations on teaching methods and low salary have discouraged education students, such as sophomore Aidan Wright, from pursuing a teaching career in Florida.

Wright’s hesitation is a part of a bigger problem that Florida teachers are dealing with. The Florida Education Association reported that there is a shortage of over 4,000 teachers this year. This situation has resulted in the possibility of hundreds of thousands of students not having a full-time teacher.

“I believe that when people compare the advantages of teaching in other states or working as virtual educators, they find that these benefits are much greater than the pros and cons of teaching in Florida,” Wright said.

Wright mentioned that he would only consider staying in Florida to teach after he finishes school if the recent bills are repealed. Wright is concerned about bills that affect how sexuality and race are discussed in classrooms. These bills are called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and the “Individual Freedom” bill.

“The recent actions of the Florida government regarding education have made me feel like I can’t teach to the best of my ability,” he said. Trayana Small, a senior majoring in elementary education, is concerned about the pay. However, she emphasizes that she chose to become a teacher not because of the money.

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“I enjoy the way I feel when I teach and interact with my students,” she said. “When I’m with my team, I really enjoy education, learning, teaching, and working with kids. I believe that if I focus on these things, the financial aspect will take care of itself.”

Small, who will finish school this semester, has agreed to work as a kindergarten teacher in Pasco County. She said that there are always job openings because there is a shortage.

“She said that teachers who have been teaching for years receive very low pay.” “Furthermore, the teachers in the classroom are feeling exhausted because they have to do extra work outside of the classroom.” According to a November 2020 article in the Oracle, USF’s enrollment decreased by 63% from 2010 to 2020. This led to program cuts in the college of education.

According to the 2023-24 fact book, there are 2,091 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled in USF’s College of Education this year. A bill called House Bill 13, also known as the “Save Our Teachers Act,” did not pass in committee in March. The base salary for full-time teachers would have been $65,000 if it had been approved. The base salary of $47,500 remains the same, as reported by the Florida Department of Education.

The average salary for educators in the state is $51,230, which is the third lowest in the country, according to the National Education Association. The association calculated that this amount corresponds to a wage that is sufficient to cover basic living expenses, which is $49,625. According to YahooFinance, the average yearly cost of living in Florida is $34,287.

Wright mentioned that the pay was definitely something he had to think about. “If I felt like I was giving my students a meaningful education, I would be satisfied with the pay,” he said. “I don’t think I would be able to achieve that with those bills in place.”

Wright said he wants to use programs that offer housing and tax benefits to teachers who are willing to teach in areas with lower incomes. Small mentioned that she has alternative plans, such as working in another country, in case the difficulties that teachers are currently facing become overwhelming.

“If not, I would consider Publix as my alternative option,” Small said. “Teaching makes me happy, but this wouldn’t.” Keara Llanos Rodriguez, a freshman majoring in elementary education, expressed her desire to teach upper elementary school once she completes her studies.

“I enjoy working with children, particularly in that specific age group and grade level. My goal is to create a safe environment for students to learn,” she said.

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