Editor’s note: This story has been updated after receiving further clarification from the Florida Department of Education.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In the lead up to the start of school and a statewide shortage of teachers, Florida passed new laws allowing military veterans to fill some of the vacancies in state classrooms.
While the vacancy count shrank from over 5,000 to about 4,400 by Sept. 1, the Florida Department of Education is now reporting over 700 positions were filled after the vacancies reported in early September.
The Florida Board of Education approved the certification program for veterans at their Aug. 17 board meeting, allowing Senate Bill 896 to be enacted and for military veterans to apply for temporary teaching certification.
State data from the Day 1 Vacancy report, which details the exact number of open teaching positions in Florida, reported 5,208 vacancies had shrank to 4,442, with 766 positions having been filled from the start of the school year.
As described by the state board of education, “the bill creates a new pathway for military veterans to obtain educator certification in Florida and removes the requirement for military reservists to document active duty for the military waiver.”
Now we know that military veterans have applied to be certified to teach through the Florida Military Veterans Certification Pathway. The program took effect July 1. Qualified veterans who are still working on earning their bachelor’s degrees are able to apply for and receive a 5-year temporary teaching certificate in order to help fill vacancies across the K-12 school system.
“As of Sept. 22, 392 veterans have applied to take advantage of the Military Veterans Certification Pathway,” an FDOE spokesperson told WFLA.com. “Certification applications for this pathway are in line to be reviewed just like all other applications the Bureau of Educator Certification receives.”
Previously, FDOE told WFLA that there were about 185,000 teachers in the state, making the vacancies account for “approximately 2.4%” of the overall positions. Comparing school districts across Florida, WFLA found there were close to 2,000 open teaching positions in the Tampa Bay area.
Most were in Hillsborough County, one of the largest school districts in the country.
FDOE said previously they would “continue to work diligently to support Florida’s teaching needs with a focus on proactively working with superintendents on a case-by-case basis.” With over 760 openings filled since the Sept. 1 vacancy report, it appears state recruitment efforts are having some effect.
Every Florida county’s teacher and staff vacancies are listed below, as of Sept. 1.
|County||Pre-K to 5th:||6th to 8th:||9th to 12th:||Total:|
|Florida A&M University||4||1||0||5|
|Florida Atlantic University||0||0||0||0|
|Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind||0||0||3||3|
|Florida State University||0||0||1||1|
|Florida Virtual School||0||0||9||9|
|Indian River County||10||7||10||27|
|Palm Beach County||131||113||140||384|
|Santa Rosa County||42||11||15||73|
|St. Johns County||21||19||23||63|
|St. Lucie County||2||2||8||12|
|University of Florida||0||0||1||0|