Florida Pushes to Bring Back Retired Educators in Response to Teacher Shortage

Lawmakers in Florida are debating a proposed bill aimed at facilitating the re-entry of retired teachers into the workforce. 

Reviving Retired Teachers

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Senate Bill 1482 proposes the abolition of the current requirement for educators and other school employees who have benefitted from the Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) to take a six-month break from work before re-employment. 

Re-employment Challenges

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DROP allows teachers to accumulate interest on their retirement savings in a trust while they continue working. Nonetheless, under the existing rules, Florida retirees from this program are obliged to wait half a year before they can rejoin the classroom.

A Paradigm Shift for Retirees

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Senate Bill 1482 proposes to eliminate the current six-month waiting period for teachers wishing to re-enter the workforce, with no new timeframe specified for when retired staff may accept new positions. 

Awaited Decision

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Set to take effect from July 1, 2024, if passed, this bill complements HB 1097, which was sent to the Florida Senate last year. 

Battling Shortages in Florida’s Schools

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Introduced in January this year by Democratic Representative Jennifer “Rita” Harris, SB 1482 addresses the concurrent challenges of staffing shortages and population growth.

Staff Shortage and Population Growth

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“We’re dealing with a staff shortage, and we’re also dealing with population growth all at the same time,” Harris stated in a Spectrum News 13 report, emphasizing the bill as a short-term solution while a long-term strategy is developed. 

Alarming Teacher Vacancies

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The Florida Education Association, the largest professional employee organization in the state, has highlighted a critical shortage in the education sector. As per their mid-year report, Florida schools are currently facing 4,096 vacant teaching positions and 3,457 support staff roles. 

Educational Gaps 


The gravity of the situation is underscored by their January 17 report, noting that the number of teacher vacancies exceeds the total teacher population in 19 of Florida’s smallest counties.

This shortfall implies that hundreds of thousands of Florida students may be without a full-time teacher. 

Chronic Shortages 

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This issue isn’t new; a 2023 Newsweek report shed light on the persistent teacher shortage in Florida, citing various reasons for the low recruitment of new teachers and the high turnover rate in the profession.

A Teacher’s Stress

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In Broward County, Florida, a 12th grade English teacher, 52 years old, is feeling the increasing strain of her profession. After nearly two decades in teaching, Turchin is contemplating leaving due to what she describes as “out of control” bureaucracy and the overwhelming focus on standardized testing. 

She’s not alone, as many of her colleagues have already departed. 

Lost Flexibility in Modern Teaching

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Turchin shared with Newsweek her frustrations about being pressured to “teach to the tests,” noting that deviating from test-related topics during lessons could negatively affect a teacher’s performance review. 

Inadequate Pay

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She lamented the loss of flexibility to explore teachable moments, a once-valued aspect of teaching. Above all, however, it’s the issue of inadequate pay that stands as her primary grievance, a sentiment echoed by many in the teaching profession.

Ranking Low

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The National Education Association’s data places Florida at 48th nationally in teacher salaries for the 2020-2021 academic year, with an average salary of $51,009, considerably below the national average of $65,293. 

Soaring Teacher Vacancie

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As of January 2023, the Florida Education Association reported 5,294 teacher vacancies, a significant increase from 4,359 in January 2022 and more than double the 2,217 vacancies in January 2019.

DeSantis’s Narrative Under Scrutiny

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Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, criticized Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, challenging the governor’s narrative on education investments. 

A Critical View 

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Spar stated,  “We’ve all heard the governor’s talking points about his investments in teachers and education, but the governor won’t tell you the truth about education in Florida, which is that our state ranks 48th in the nation in average teacher salary, 43rd in the nation in per student spending, and doesn’t even crack the top 10 in average teacher starting salary or average earnings for K-12 education support professionals.”

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