Florida faces teacher recruitment hurdles as graduates leave education

Although enrollment has increased, data shows that there are 90,000 fewer graduates with educational degrees in 2021 than in 1971.

PINELLAS COUNTY, Florida. As college freshmen prepare to start school this fall semester and decide which major they’d like to take, there’s one career that’s become less popular over the past few decades: education.

Florida education leaders say this is not surprising.

“We have the fourth largest economy in America. We are #48 in teacher salaries,” said Lee Bryant, president of the Pinellas School Teachers Association.

Andrew Spar of the Florida Education Association says low wages and new legislation that imposes strict requirements and bans across the state will make it harder for Florida to hire new teachers.

“This is a vilification of teachers and public schools [is leading] Fewer and fewer college students are choosing education as their career,” he said.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that while college enrollment has increased over several decades, the number of applicants for higher education with a degree in education has declined.

This data shows that there are 90,000 fewer graduates in 2021 than in 1971.

Bryant says it’s not surprising that some current educators are leaving the state, while future educators may be afraid to come.

“There’s a huge amount of ‘I’m going to get in trouble if I say this,'” he said. “I know LGBTQ teachers who can’t put up a photo or think they can’t put a photo of their spouse on a desk because they’re worried about the consequences.”

The Florida Department of Education has listed seven different subjects with critical-level vacancies for the 2022-23 school year.

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