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Sarasota Lawmaker Files Bill Aimed At Easing Florida's Teacher Shortage

Jan 11, 2019

The Florida Department of Education says the state is experiencing a critical teacher shortage. Meanwhile, school districts across Florida continue to struggle to fill teacher positions.

A Sarasota lawmaker is proposing to make it easier for retired teachers to get back in the classroom.

Democratic state representative Margaret Good wants to loosen rules on state benefits when it comes to educators.

Democrat Margaret Good represents Sarasota's House District 72.

Her bill would allow retired educators to immediately fill substitute teacher positions. Right now, retirees cannot be re-hired by any agency in the state retirement system for six months after they retire without risking their benefits.

That includes working as a substitute teacher.

"But in my mind it’s really a stop gap measure,” said Good. “We need to focus on teacher recruitment and teacher retention to create a long term solution to these vacancies."

According to the Florida Education Association, there are currently more than 2,000 open teacher jobs across the state's 67 school districts.

The nation's 4th largest school system needs educators in all subjects but the biggest deficit is in math and science.

"Everyone talks about STEM and how important STEM education is in our society,” said Good. “And to not have a good pool of science teachers to pull from is ultimately hurting our students and hurting our economy."

So far, the bill has no Senate companion, but Good says she feels confident one will be introduced. The new state legislative session begins March 5th.

The ongoing teacher shortage is on the agenda of the Florida Board of Education, which meets Wednesday.