Despite tax for raises, teacher vacancies creep up
One year after Miami-Dade residents voted to tax themselves more to give teachers a raise and improve school security, the county public school district has roughly the same number of staffing vacancies, school spokespeople say.
Voters on Nov. 6, 2018, overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure to increased homeowner tax bills, a move estimated to generate around $232 million over four years.
Eighty-eight percent of those funds was to go toward salary hikes for teachers and counselors, school board members agreed, with the remainder to be used to hire more officers for every school, as required by a state law Florida legislators OK’d six months earlier.
But despite better pay and boosted safety, the school district has more teacher vacancies now than it did this time last year, said Rolando Martín, director of communications for Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS).
Mr. Martín said in an email that, as of last week, the school district had 257 openings in critical core subject areas. At the same time last year, it had 248 openings in those areas.
“We started [this] year with 166 openings,” he said.
Staffing shortages, he said, are in the same areas they’ve historically been: exceptional student education (special education), followed by a shortage of “strong teachers in the areas of math, science and language arts/reading.”
Staffing is adequate in most other core subject areas, he said, “although given the size of our district and the total number of schools, at any given time we can have vacancies across numerous subject areas.”
Teacher recruitment is a year-round effort at the school system, spokesperson Jacquelyn Calzadilla told Miami Today.
“To ensure we have the most qualified teaching candidates for employment within MDCPS, the Office of Human Capital Management has collaborated with the Office of Budget Management to award advanced contracts or commitments to hire,” she wrote.
Other outreach efforts, she said, include:
- Expanded outreach and strengthened partnerships with regional and state schools, specifically with Florida Atlantic University, Nova Southeastern, Broward College, Florida State University and Florida A&M University, as well as continued work Miami Dade College and Florida International University “to assist education majors in the process of completing their teaching internships with clear pathways to fill current MDCPS vacancies.”
- Recruitment events, including virtual hiring fairs, district-sponsored hiring fairs, exceptional student education hiring fairs, senior seminar sessions in fall and spring, and recruitment of non-education majors “to increase the talent pool of content-specific experts available for hire and promote MDCPS as an employer of choice.
- Strategic recruitment and pre-service preparation programs, including continued collaboration with the school district’s Education Transformation Office, which invests curricula and funding into the county’s “persistently lowest-achieving” schools; and a continued partnerships with Teach For America.
- Continued sourcing through “teacher pipelines” like City Year, FIUTeach, Passport to Teach and Troops to Education.
- Weekly updates to the district’s “Featured Vacancies” webpage, which is aimed specifically at assisting the district’s lowest-scoring schools in filling anticipated vacancies.
Year-over-year teacher rolls hit a 22-year low in April, according to a Miami-Dade Public Schools figures that showed staffing fell to 17,798 teachers despite a more than $2,500 increase in average salaries from the previous year.
It marked the lowest level of staffing since 1997, when the school year commenced with 17,687 teachers. Between then and now, teacher rolls never fell below 18,000.
The numbers run contrary to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho’s assertion in August 2018 that Miami-Dade’s staffing levels would be better “than last year or the year before, which is counterintuitive considering the teacher shortage trends observed across the country.”
Ongoing efforts to privatize education and related funding measures, including a bill Florida legislators passed in April that will siphon future public funding referendum dollars into charter schools, could exacerbate that trend, United Teachers of Dade President Karla Hernandez-Mats said.
“What we see here is a big shift, where they’re trying to privatize [public education],” she said. “There’s no problem with private schools. They were established for a reason, and there’s no problem with charter schools or charter school teachers either. But they shouldn’t be funded with public tax dollars because they do not have any public oversight. They are not accountable to the public. Public schools are.”