Editor’s note: This story has been updated with corrections after receiving clarification from the Florida Department of Education.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The 2022 school year is open and started, and the Florida Department of Education has areas that still have “critical teacher shortages.” While the state government works on multiple solutions to fill a staff shortage thousands of positions wide, Staff salaries and recruitment drives are only part of the effort needed to address statewide education employment concerns.

FDOE has released an analysis of which areas are most in need of teachers. According to the report, released in February 2022, most of the shortage areas are in English and Reading, and Science. FDOE said the report is based on previous years’ data. The list breaks down as follows.

  • English
  • Exceptional Student Education (ESE)
  • Science-General
  • Reading
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
  • Math
  • Science-Physical

The state’s education department said the “shortage areas above represent certification areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach such courses, where significant vacancies exist and where postsecondary institutions do not produce enough graduates to meet” Florida’s K-12 needs, when it comes to student population size.

Overall, English instruction is ranked highest for critical shortages. Exceptional student education is second.

“The Critical Teacher Shortage Report shows that ESOL certifications account for 19.62% of the total teaching certificates and endorsements held by Florida educators. Reading certifications account for 7.87% of the total teaching certificates and endorsements held by Florida educators. This would be the same for ESE and English,” according to a statement from FDOE about the report.

The FDOE report says, “Districts prefer to hire teachers certified in the appropriate field(s) for the courses they teach when possible to ensure students receive instruction at the level of rigor measured by statewide, standardized assessments.”

Earlier in the year, the Florida Department of Education said students had exceeded the state’s expectations when it came to grades in public schools. However, proportionally, students received more ‘F’ grades than previous years.

Additionally, while teacher shortages persist, the state’s education curriculum is being rewritten. Not all teachers are happy about it, nor are all of them upset. A Tampa Bay high school teacher told WFLA.com her worries about how the new curriculum could affect teachers, and by extension, the students.

Michelle Stover, who teaches social studies, said the curriculum trainings conducted over the summer involved FDOE staff telling teachers how to believe, rather than focusing on the material they would be teaching.

Separately, a survey of Sarasota County teachers on the morale in school environments painted a picture of mistrust and stress, with some survey respondents saying they’d prefer to quit instead of continue in the current setting.

Teachers preferring to leave rather than stay will only exacerbate the critical shortage noted by the Florida Department of Education.

“We want to be able to recruit more people as we have vacancies. You’re hearing a lot about national teacher vacancies, and we have some,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a mid-August event in Pensacola. “We actually have less per capita than the national average and way less than some of these other states per capita. We want to make this attractive.”

The Florida Education Association has noted in the past that the shortages and lack of certified teachers or even bus drivers leave students in the state underserved. The union said the COVID-19 pandemic had made the shortage problem worse, “but shortages were a pre-existing condition,” saying “Florida has long-standing difficulties with retaining and recruiting public school employees.”

As of 2021, FEA said there were nearly 5,000 teaching vacancies, and close to 4,000 vacancies for a variety of staffing positions in Florida schools. At the beginning of 2022, FEA said that the number had grown to 9,500 total openings, though the number of open teaching positions had shifted downward and staff openings had increased.

In response, FDOE provided WFLA with the following statement addressing the current number of vacancies.

“As of the first day of school for the 2022-23 school year, the total number of teacher vacancies in Florida is 5,208 as reported by school districts,” the FDOE said in a statement. “For context – Florida has roughly 185,000 teachers and the state’s current vacancies represent less than 3% of teaching positions, which is also less than 1.5 open positions per school on average.”

The organization lists “pay, lack of support, lack of flexibility in instruction, lack of multi-year contracts for teachers, and overcrowded classrooms” as reasons why the shortages continue and why “schools can’t attract and keep enough teachers and staff.”

The Critical Teacher Shortage Report is produced to meet statutory requirements per Florida law and State Board of Education rules, according to the education department.