TAMPA, Fla. — The latest group of USF education students are the latest to sign up to teach in the Hillsborough County public school system.
“We definitely know that there is a national need for teachers and we are super excited about this group because these are going to become our STEM teachers and going into those very advanced fields in mathematics and science and also technology," said Dr. Marie Whelan, Hillsborough County Public Schools chief of human capital.
But this group of recruits won’t come close to filling all the vacancies in school districts around Florida. The Florida Education Association said there were more than 5,000 openings as of October.
The head of the Pinellas County teachers union tells ABC Action News the teacher shortage is partly because of salary concerns and also a lack of respect. She said any salary increases are only for new teachers.
“So what happens is we have great recruitment. People are attracted to that wonderful beginning salary. But they don’t stay when they realize they won’t see raises for years. And they will basically remain at the salary for years," said Nancy Velardi, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association.
In Hillsborough County, district leaders said they get a steady stream of quality teacher candidates from area colleges. They said 80% of those who intern end up taking teaching jobs in Hillsborough.
“And it’s important that we place them in a variety of schools because interns tend to want to stay at the schools where they interned. They already have experience, not only teaching but teaching in Hillsborough County," said Christie Gold, Hillsborough County Public Schools recruitment specialist.
The new state budget could include a second round of $1,000 bonuses to try and entice teachers to stick around, but the teacher’s union said it’s not enough.
“It’s a ploy. People think that they are giving bonuses. But actually, it’s a very small percentage of people who are even going to qualify for the bonus. It’s not reality," said Velardi.
Florida’s overall average teacher’s salary is 49th in the nation according to a report from the National Education Association.