Florida charter school teachers top 10,000

The number of instructional personnel in Florida charter schools more than doubled in the past five years and topped 10,000 for the first time last year, according to state data requested by redefinED.

Between the 2007-08 and 2011-12 school years, the number climbed from 4,900 to 10,707, the Florida Department of Education figures show. The vast majority are classroom teachers, but “instructional personnel” also include guidance counselors, media specialists, school psychologists and other professional staff.

The growth is more evidence of an underplayed dynamic in debates over school choice and education reform: Teachers, like parents, are increasingly choosing alternative educational options.

Florida is among the leading states in the number of charter schools and students enrolled in them. Since the 2007-08 school year, the number of charter schools in Florida has risen from 358 to 518; the number of students, from 105,239 to 179,940. Over the same period nationally, charter school enrollment grew from 1.3 million to more than 2 million, according to data from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

The number of charter school teachers in Florida still pales in comparison to the number in traditional public schools. The number of instructional staff last year, in both the charter and traditional sectors, fell just shy of 190,000 last fall, according to DOE. That included 168,135 classroom teachers.

The Miami-Dade school district, the state’s biggest, had the most charter school teachers within its boundaries last year (2,085), followed by Broward (1,615), Polk (840), Palm Beach (710), Hillsborough (649) and Lee (631).

The number of online K-12 teachers is also growing fast in Florida. In the 2007-08 school year, Florida Virtual School had 424 full-time teachers. Last year, it had 1,175.

FVS began in 1997 with seven.

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BY Ron Matus

Ron Matus is director for policy and public affairs at Step Up for Students and a former editor of redefinED. He joined Step Up in February 2012 after 20 years in journalism, including eight years as an education reporter with the Tampa Bay Times (formerly the St. Petersburg Times). Ron can be reached at rmatus@stepupforstudents.org or (727) 451-9830. Follow him on Twitter @RonMatus1 and on facebook at facebook.com/redefinedonline.