Coronavirus could worsen Florida’s teacher shortage

Education

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) — As Florida’s 2020-2021 school year approaches, state and federal authorities are putting pressure on teachers to return to the classroom with what some teachers believe are minimal protections.

According to a report from the American Enterprise Institute based on federal data, more than 18 percent of all public and private school teachers – along with 27 percent of all school principals are 65 or older. That’s an age group that has become disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19.

Many other teachers, who have families and children of their own, are now left with the difficult decision between their livelihood or the health of themselves and their families.

Either way, that decision may exacerbate a problem that’s been plaguing Florida’s education system years.

Florida has faced a teacher shortage for some time, which the Florida Eduation Association believes is due, in part, to overcrowded classrooms and lack of support.

The FEA reported in January 2020 fmore than 2,440 teaching positions remained open in Florida — a 10% increase from January 2019.

President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to take away federal funding from any schools that do not reopen in the fall. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos tweeted that bringing students back to the classroom this fall wasn’t a matter of “if” but “how.”

“There are no excuses for sowing fear and for making excuses when there are clearly safe ways to do things and we can make those decisions, take those steps forward to getting schools fully open, fully operational and serve the families that we’ve made the promise to,” DeVos said in an interview this week.

The FEA told WFLA on Thursday that proper safety measures haven’t been taken to keep students, staff and faculty healthy.

“We know that students are impacted by this, they carry the coronavirus, they may give it to others and then, of course, the people who work in our schools being in tight, close-quarters what happens if someone gets coronavirus, how are they contact tracing it, what kind of testing is going to happen,” said Andrew Spar.

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