Tallahassee politicians spend a lot of time talking about education, but precious little time talking to educators. To address the growing teacher and staff shortage crisis in Florida’s public schools, lawmakers must finally take the time to listen to the professionals who are in the schools every day doing the work to make sure our students are successful.
So far, the Legislature has failed to fully respond to this crisis. Instead, we have seen short-term patches such as waiving teacher preparation requirements, promoting scripted lessons, and a reliance on failed bonus programs. These strategies have served only to accelerate teacher turnover while also weakening professional practice.
Recruiting teachers only just became an obvious priority in 2020 with the legislature's focus on raising minimum teacher salaries. Unfortunately, the solution targeting recruitment failed to provide for equitable increases among new and veteran teachers. Worse, the plan to raise minimum teacher salaries was narrowly focused on classroom teachers, failing to provide for non-classroom teachers whose support services are needed now more than ever--counseling, psychological testing, remediation and support for struggling learners, etc.
Focusing on recruitment without attending to retention does little to solve the teaching shortage. In fact, done without thought for retention, incentivized recruitment actually promotes turnover.
It is critical that the legislature now turn its attention to retaining high-quality educators! Two ways that retention can be addressed include:
*Flexibility for local school boards to more equitably distribute salary improvements --allowing elected school boards more opportunity to provide salary improvements to mid and late career educators reassures teachers at every level that their contributions are valuable and that as they remain committed to the district their experience will be valued.
*Provisions for multi-year contracts for teachers --the promise of continuing employment instills deeper loyalty to the district and encourages newer educators to establish themselves in the communities where they teach.
Email your legislators and encourage them to combat the state's staffing shortage by promotoing policies aimed at retaining high-quality educators.