TAMPA, Fla. — As students leave their social studies, science and math classes, hundreds of teachers are missing from the equation this year in Florida public schools.
10News called districts across the Tampa Bay area and found we're currently short about 700 teachers. Right now, there are 102 job openings in Pasco County, 120 in Polk County and 244 in Hillsborough County.
"I'm not surprised, they don't pay them well enough, so they're making other occupational choices, and who's to blame them," Arthur Gutman said.
Gutman has a seventh grader in a public middle school in Hillsborough County. He says his kid loves her teachers, but he thinks something's got to give.
"Teachers are underpaid, schools are underfunded [and the government takes] a lot in property taxes, I think they ought to spend it better," Gutman said.
Hillsborough County Schools sent a statement saying they're not alone, dealing with a "national shortage." It says it's creating incentives to recruit more candidates.
"We’ve started a referral program with our partners at HEF, the Hillsborough Education Foundation. It’s the 'Teach with Me' rewards program. It delivers a $100 reward to a current employee who refers a friend to become a teacher in one of our schools. And the Spark incentive program is attracting teachers to our Achievement Schools, which are our schools with the highest needs. Teachers can earn up to $13,000 a year in additional pay if they join the team at one of our highest-needs schools."
The President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teacher's Association, Rob Kriete, puts the blames for the shortage squarely on lawmakers, saying teacher pay in Florida is 47th out of 50 states.
He says when the legislature doesn't give public schools in Florida enough money, it's the kids that pay.
"Often you have a substitutes and then sometimes we run out of substitutes, then these students are farmed out to other teachers, so they might be in a classroom that's not even teaching the subject that they're scheduled for," Kriete said.
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