State, education union, spar over the number of teacher vacancies across FL public schools

Florida Phoenix | By Christian Casale | August 16, 2023

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. announced this week that the Florida Department of Education has recorded 4,776 total teacher vacancies to begin the 2023-2024 school year, an 8% decline from last year. One year ago, their figure was 5,208. 

However, the Florida Education Association, a statewide union, said there are 6,920 teaching vacancies statewide, according to a press release earlier this month. One year ago, their figure was 6,006, a 15 percent increase in vacancies.

Not only are the two groups far apart, but they are now swiping at each other.

In an email to The Phoenix, Florida Department of Education spokesperson Cailey Myers said in part, “The FEA’s claim that there are 7,000 teacher vacancies in Florida is completely false and was found using a wildly inaccurate methodology.”

The Florida Department of Education did not respond to a request for further comment as of Wednesday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, FEA spokesperson Joni Branch directed The Phoenix to a statement from President Andrew Spar, who said the Florida Department of Education had tried to “minimize the staffing crisis.”

“We stand by FEA’s Aug. 7 count of vacancies listed on school districts’ websites, just as we stand by the counts we have conducted over the past several years,” Spar said in his statement. “Due to low pay and a divisive political climate of fear and intimidation, the teacher and staff shortage has gone from bad to worse under the DeSantis administration.”

Also, “The Florida Education Association counts vacancies posted on district websites twice annually, in August and January,” the group said in its statement. They also included a county-by-county breakdown of vacancy numbers.

The Department of Education also used the phrase “falsely reported” in its statement to describe the FEA’s conclusions.

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