Educators are fleeing Florida and here’s why

For those pursuing a career in the education field this is an absolutely terrifying thought, and puts the usefulness of their degree in question. | Mariantona Mejia, PantherNOW

Mariantonia Mejia | Staff Writer

The number of educators working in Florida is dropping at an alarming rate due to our state’s seeming inability to give them appropriate academic freedom or pay them properly. 

In a new report from Florida’s largest association of professional employees, the Florida Education Association, there is currently a vacancy of over 4,000 teachers and over 3,000 staff members within the K-12 system. 

This development comes as talks of a mass educator exodus grow traction in Florida, with those in the education system citing low teacher pay and worsening politics as main factors. 

As of Apr. 24 the National Education Association reports that Florida ranks 48 in the nation for teacher pay, lower still than in 2018. 

The average teacher pay in Florida is currently $51,000 a year, which is only about $12,000 higher than what is needed to earn a living wage in Miami, when adjusting for inflation and other economic factors. 

For those pursuing a career in the education field, this is an absolutely terrifying thought, and puts the usefulness of their degree in question. It is absolutely outrageous, and paints a very bleak picture of the future of education in this state. 

This should not be the case for such an incredibly vital profession.

If Florida cannot even offer a proper living wage for those who are the bedrock of our society, it reveals the lack of respect our current government has for the education system as a whole. 

While trying to parse through what the future education landscape may look like in Florida, those studying to be teachers may also be forced to deal with educational suppression within teacher-preparation courses. 

Senate Bill 1372, proposing that courses could not be based on the theory that systemic racism and other forms of oppression are intrinsic to the the US, or that they were created for the purpose of maintaining class inequities, has been slowly moving forward. 

It should be noted that measures such as these do nothing but exacerbate the shortage, as they put yet another restraint on educators’ freedom in keeping with the general trend of disrespect towards teachers and professors as a whole. 

Along with this, a slew of “anti-woke” laws brought on by Governor DeSantis have contributed to the growing distaste towards pursuing a career in education in the state of Florida. 

Educators cite laws including DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the “Stop WOKE Act”, and the banning of “critical race theory”, as reasons for fleeing from educating. 

It’s ridiculous to have teachers perform mental acrobatics and then act surprised when teachers have had enough. 

These problems of educational censorship are not exclusive to the K-12 field either, as those in higher education have referred to the academic situation in Florida as “an intellectual reign of terror”. 

In Dec. the American Association of University Professors released a report laying out the reasons why higher education was under attack during DeSantis’s tenure. 

These included the essentially hostile takeover of New College, the “Academic Governance in Florida Higher Education”, attacks on academic freedom, bias and discrimination, among others things. 

Though we have not necessarily seen this translated into a similar professor shortage, the general attitude amongst those involved in higher education is one of disdain for governing powers. 

Universities used to be viewed as bastions of free thinking and those who once felt stifled by the constraints of the K-12 system could expand their horizons by attending college. 

Now, authoritarian “anti-woke” legislation has begun to creep its way into higher education spaces- and nobody is safe. 

If we want to build a world where we and future generations can step into a classroom and feel confident that we are being taught by someone who is dedicated to our success, we must rebuild a system that respects and values educators. 

Otherwise, this government will succeed in crushing the spirits of those who genuinely believe they can make a difference, and Florida’s education system will crumble. 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented on this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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