The 2022-23 K-12 school year begins in less than two months and Florida school districts are facing teacher shortages.
As of this week, Duval County Public Schools reported 529 vacancies for certified teachers, up 23% — nearly 100 positions — compared to the start of last school year. This year’s vacancies are almost double the number Duval saw at the beginning of 2020-21 school year.
In addition, Orange County Public Schools lists over 200 K-12 teacher openings and Brevard County Public Schools lists 235 teacher vacancies.
And while the numbers are daunting they should not be surprising.
According to surveys by the Florida Education Association(FEA), the number of teacher vacancies have increased a 104% since August 2019. In August 2019, the FEA reported there were 2,135 advertised positions. This number increased to 2,962 in August 2020 and ballooned to 4,359 by January 2022.
Expense records indicate that school district funds were used to pay for a Leon County school district employees to attend the “All Together Now” (ATN) conference sponsored by Equality Florida.
Equality Florida is a left-wing progressive group that advocates for LGBTQ issues and was recently in the news for attacking Governor Ron DeSantis via television advertisements. The group is registered as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is also affiliated with the Equality Florida Action PAC . The PAC is touted as the “largest organization in Florida devoted to electing pro-equality candidates to all levels of government.”
The PAC also endorses candidates which are overwhelmingly Democrats. For example, during the 2020 election cycle the Equality Florida PAC endorsed 14 Democrats and no Republicans in Florida U.S House races.
One of the methods used by Equality Florida to promote their mission and influence school district policy is through the “All Together Now Conference”. Equality Florida states that ATN provides “dynamic programming that includes sessions such as a superintendent’s roundtable discussion, family acceptance panels, GSA workshops, and legal expert testimonials.”
As the recent COVID wave in Florida recedes, all school districts that previously enforced mask mandates in Florida have dropped their masks requirements. In addition, a number of school districts that chose to challenge the Department of Health (DOH) rule that banned mask mandates have decided to end their legal challenges to the rule.
Back in October, the Leon County School District – home to the state capitol – ended a mask mandate policy with a parental opt-out provision. The decision came after the district was found to be violating the DOH rule.
Following the Leon County decision, the Broward County School District voted to remove its mask mandates for all school levels effective November 20th.
On Thursday, April 22, 2021, the Florida Senate approved a “moment of silence” bill (HB 529) that was previously approved by the Florida House of Representatives on March 18th of this year regarding the requirement of all school districts to enforce a 1-2 minute moment of silence for students of all grades at the beginning of each school day, specifically during first-period class times.
The House approved the bill with a 94-24 vote while the Senate approved the bill with a 32-6 vote. After Thursdays approval, the bill moves on to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis where he will make final actions regarding the bill.