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Wanted: 31,000 teachers

State education officials are scrambling to hire thousands of new teachers, while money and African-American students are also scarce.

By Times Staff Writer
Published September 15, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - State education officials are devising ways to recruit the 31,000 new teachers Florida will need for the 2006-07 school year to fill vacancies and help local districts meet requirements to lower the number of students per class.

The estimated number of teachers needed for the 2006-07 school year is close to 50 percent more than was needed for 2004-05, according to an estimate by state officials.

"It's one of the most critical issues facing Florida today," Pam Stewart, a deputy chancellor of the Department of Education, told a Board of Governors committee on Thursday.

The department wants to increase performance-based pay for teachers, allocate some of the funding for smaller classes sizes for teacher pay, increase the ways people from other professions can become teachers, allow more flexibility in teacher education degree programs and have parents play a larger role in encouraging the best teachers to stay in the profession.

An important source of potential teachers are schools' paraprofessionals, such as teacher aides or staffers who work in school offices, said Sandra Robinson, dean of the University of Central Florida College of Education.

Increasing teachers' salaries also is crucial in retaining the best educators, she said.

"We are losing our science teachers. We are losing our math teachers because they can go other places and earn more money," Robinson said.

In other business, members of a Board of Governors committee were told that the amount of money dedicated to construction, renovations and repairs on campuses would decline considerably over the next three years.

The amount of money designated for campus capital outlays in the 2005-06 budget is $219.4 million. But that figure drops to an estimated $135.8 million in the 2006-07 budget, $82.7 million in the 2007-08 budget and $75.8 million in the 2008-09 budget.

The universities may have to find money for construction projects from other sources, such as by issuing bonds or using funds other than the Public Education Capital Outlay allocation, education officials said.

Additionally, chair Carolyn Roberts asked each of system's 11 university presidents to come back with an update on their recruiting efforts of African-American students. New figures recently showed black enrollment at Florida universities is at a seven-year low - ammunition for critics of Gov. Jeb Bush's 5-year-old policy excluding race in admissions decisions.

Roberts told them it's important that the schools recruit and help students who are the first in their family to attend college.

"I know that we can help students through this system," Roberts said. "It can be a difficult system."

[Last modified September 15, 2005, 19:00:07]

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