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Florida, South Georgia schools grapple with teacher, staff shortages

Florida Education Association says this school year has seen an increase in teachers leaving the business.
Posted at 7:07 PM, Nov 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-03 19:07:34-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Industries across the country are now grappling with worker shortages; including the people responsible for educating the youngest members of society.

Florida Education Association President Andrew Sparr said the teacher shortage has been an issue for years, but this school year is different.

"When you talk about not having enough teachers or substitutes to cover, that means our children are missing out on the education they are promised and deserve," he said.

He's taking those concerns to Florida's top lawmakers.

"We have quite a few proposals going before the legislature. One of them obviously is fair and equitable pay for all," said Sparr. "We have seen this legislature pass bills that address pay for a small group of individuals within the teaching force but we really need to address pay for teachers and support staff across the board in our schools."

He said the average salary for teachers in Florida ranks 49th in the nation, more than $10,000 less than the national average, which was $65,090 for the 2020-21 school year, according to the National Education Association.

Sparr added Florida is leading the nation in the teacher shortage.

Teachers usually leave at the start of the year, but Sparr said many are calling it quits mid-semester this year due to issues like mask debates between parents.

"There are several issues going on here. One is a high level of frustration," said Sparr. "We have an incredible amount of rancor at school board meetings throughout the state which is leading to the conclusion that people don't respect the people working in the schools."

Not unique to Florida, in Colquitt County, Georgia, Superintendent Ben Wiggins said the school is using retired teachers as long-term substitutes.

However, he's working to make sure Colquitt County is one of the best options for job-seeking educators.

"We've increased our local supplement to make us competitive, we've offered employee assistance program," said Wiggins. "We want them to know we're taking care of them with teaching and their social-emotional well-being. We have new benefits and the biggest news is we have implemented a match program up to 6%. We hope those things will entice future teachers to work for Colquitt County."

You can find information to apply for Colquitt County Schools by clicking here.