Union leaders say experienced educators are alienated from their passion.
FLORIDA, USA – Much of the 2022 legislative session has been centered on Florida classrooms, and the state’s largest teachers’ union says that’s driving more educators to leave. .
Last month, the Florida Education Association determined the state had 4,000 teaching vacancies and President Andrew Spar said the Florida Board of Education expects that number to increase to 9,000 vacancies by the end of the year. of this school year.
“Joy and passion are sucked into our profession,” said Stephanie Yocum, a former algebra teacher who quit after 10 years to lead the Polk Education Association.
According to teachers we spoke with in the Tampa Bay area, educators have many reasons for leaving the classroom. Some are exhausted from the strain caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Others find new opportunities with better pay.
“Every time they add another rule to how we pay teachers, it hurts our experienced teachers. That’s why we see so many experienced teachers leaving the classroom,” said Spar, who urges legislators not to adopt HB 1203, which would add another regulation. how districts offer salary increases to teachers.
Recent legislation in Florida regarding teacher salary increases has focused on base salaries and bonuses rather than incentives to retain long-serving educators. In 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis increased the base salary for teachers in Florida to at least $47,500. The following year, he handed out $1,000 bonuses to all Florida teachers for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two other high-profile bills are getting a lot of national attention because of the impact they could have on classrooms in Florida.
HB 1557 limits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Proponents say it gives parents more oversight. HB 7 limits lessons that might cause students to feel uncomfortable or guilty because of their race or gender. It prohibits teaching the idea that someone might be inherently racist.
In a recent poll of Florida voters conducted by Clearview Research, 93% agreed: “We need to teach our children both the good and the bad of history and current affairs to prepare them to be well-informed, independent thinkers, even if it makes some people feel uncomfortable.”
The Florida Education Association paid the research firm to conduct the poll which also found that 92% of respondents wanted better pay for teachers.
While all of this legislation still has a ways to go before it reaches the governor’s office to become law, Yocum says teachers are taking note of the limitations coming out of Tallahassee.
“I love algebra. I love teaching math, but we go there for the relationships we build and we feel like we’re making a difference in children’s lives,” she said.
One bright spot for education in this legislative session is the budget. Florida lawmakers are spending more money than ever on schools.
“We should applaud lawmakers,” Spar said.