Teachers Fleeing “Toxic” Florida Universities Amid Crackdown on Teaching Rules and Practices

Florida has been at the front of U.S. media for the last several months. Controversial new laws passed by Governor Ron DeSantis have divided the country’s opinion on the peninsula.

The education system has been specifically targeted by laws like the ones referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” laws. These laws prohibit teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity topics with children in kindergarten through third grade. Furthermore, there has been a recent attack on the teaching of critical race theory, which examines the role of race in America. Today, many teachers are finding it more and more difficult to teach in Florida.

DeSantis has not kept his feelings about “woke” culture a secret. Schools, especially higher education, tend to be a breeding ground for progressive ideas—something the governor is vehemently against. Through a combination of laws and strategic appointments to college boards, DeSantis is slowly tightening his grip on Florida universities.

The Results Are Far From Expected

Florida colleges and universities are experiencing what many call a “brain-drain.” Skilled educators are fleeing the state in pursuit of jobs where they have more academic liberty. As a result, schools within the tropical state are struggling to fill teaching posts.

Prior to DeSantis taking office, the state had around 2,000 vacancies. That number has more than doubled, with 5,294 vacancies as of January 2023. At one school alone, New College of Florida, sixty-four of a hundred educator jobs were left empty this Fall. 

The risk of losing their licenses for teaching something in a way that might violate one of DeSantis’ many new restrictions has created an atmosphere of fear. A New College of Florida faculty member described the current level of governmental control as “chilling and terrifying” and took a position at St. Mary’s College in Maryland instead.

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No Longer Feeling Welcome

The new laws have also banned funding of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs at any publicly funded Florida college or university.

One gay couple have decided to look for positions elsewhere once they saw the tide changing. James Pascoe, an assistant professor of mathematics at the University of Florida, saw the signs early on. “It was becoming clear that the university was becoming politicized,” he shared with The Guardian.

During his application to other schools, the state continued to pass restrictive laws. “When I was waiting to hear back on job applications, they started passing all these vaguely anti-gay, anti-LGBTQ+ laws. The state didn’t seem to be a good place for us to live in anymore.” By the summer of 2022, Pascoe and his partner found jobs in Philadelphia.

Some educators are choosing to retire early rather than put up with the new laws. “For the first time, I’ve actually started talking to my investment guy about retirement,” Michael Woods, a Florida public school teacher working in exceptional education, told Vanity Fair. “I’m a 30-year veteran who showed up every day, hardly calls in sick, but now I don’t want to be a teacher in Florida.”

Kenneth Nunn, one of the few Black faculty members of the University of Florida’s law school, retired rather than stay in a place where critical race theory was being “denigrated and attacked”. He has since relocated to Washington DC to serve as a visiting professor at Howard University.

Many parents are feeling the effect of the teacher shortage. Reagan Miller, a parent of two children attending Florida Public Schools, complained about the lack of educators. “We had substitutes for three, four months of the year. We had a teacher who taught advanced math at our middle school for years and years—he just left to go be a 911 operator,” she said to Vanity Fair, “which blows my mind, that becoming a 911 operator would be less stressful than being a teacher.”

All of this educational upheaval will surely reshape Florida’s academic landscape for years to come. Teaching has always been an underappreciated yet tremendously essential aspect of society. Florida could find itself in an emergency situation if the state’s leadership doesn’t find a way to retain its educators at every level.


This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching. Source.

I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

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