Orange County

Central Florida schools see shortage in early childhood education teachers day before classes resume

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — As parents get ready to send their children back to school on Tuesday, there is a shortage of teachers in early childhood education programs across Central Florida.

The Early Learning Coalition of Orange County said waitlists to get children into programs are growing, while there are hundreds of openings for teachers.

Some parents were afraid their child’s voluntary prekindergarten program had been canceled, after they received an email Monday morning saying their enrollment had been canceled the day before it’s supposed to start.

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It turns out that was an automated response sent by mistake through a state assignment system, and their children were just changing classrooms.

Channel 9 found out there really is a shortage of teachers for early childhood education programs, which includes everything from childcare programs for infants up through VPK.

“It’s a major issue that we are contending with,” said Karen Willis, CEO of the Early Learning Coalition of Orange County. “(It’s) pretty much the same stuff that every employer is seeing across the country, the state, the nation — we’re having a difficult time finding workers.”

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It’s even more difficult in this field, because requirements to work around children are even more stringent than others. Some VPK-qualified teachers are looking at other industries that are now offering sign-on bonuses and higher wages.

Those paying the price are working parents and their children who can’t find a spot in a classroom.

The Early Learning Coalition works with facilities, parents and the state to help make sure children in Orange County are taken care of.

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A recent survey of a sample of providers shows huge waitlists to get in, and lots of unfilled teacher spots.

“There were over 500 children on waitlists, waiting for classrooms to open because there were about 150 openings for teachers,” Willis said.

Parents can find the right program for their children by clicking here.

READ: Florida doctors, teachers call on Gov. DeSantis to reverse order blocking COVID mandates in schools

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

Adam Poulisse, WFTV.com

Adam Poulisse joined WFTV in November 2019.

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