Education is meant to be the future, yet schools across the nation are facing a terrifying teacher shortage. The U.S. Department of Education reports that 75% of states are experiencing teacher shortages at the elementary level, specifically for STEM and special education positions. School districts across Florida are in trouble as the influx of students grows, yet teaching positions are left unfilled. With larger class sizes and resources stretched thin, the quality of education suffers. Florida schools have ramped up recruitment, even reaching out to universities out of state to help ease the burden…but it’s not enough.
With years of budget cuts and overall funding inequalities across school districts, it’s no wonder there has been a drop in enrollment in university education programs. The dean of the UCF College of Education, Pamela Carroll, remarked that, “college students are not convinced that teaching will be a rewarding career path.” Dissatisfaction with the profession is the leading cause of the shortage. Teacher salaries have been on the decline since the 1990s, and many teachers are given little opportunity for wage increases. They are left feeling deterred by the level of accountability placed on schools to “teach to the test” or else be threatened with sanctions. In Florida specifically, merit pay, a program built to base teacher pay on student performance, has caused a lot of anxiety among teachers, especially in high-minority and low-income schools where resources are often limited.
Temporary fixes such as lowering the standard to become a teacher can ease some of the shortages; however, there comes the risk of thereby also lowering the quality of education the students will receive. The only real, long-term solution is policy reform that will reconstruct teaching as a worthwhile profession once again.
Financial aid and scholarship programs for students seeking an education degree can help improve enrollment at universities to ensure future teachers are getting the training and skills needed to excel in the profession. Competitive salaries and benefit packages will help keep teachers employed and reduce the turnover rate. This is an investment we desperately need. We, as a society, need to adjust our perception of teaching, especially in public education, as being “less than.” Teaching is a respectable profession that is the key to our progression as a society.