Nearly 700 Orange County teachers have left the job since the school year started: Here’s why

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Nearly 700 teachers with Orange County Public Schools have left their jobs since the start of the school year.

The county teacher’s union says low pay and a high workload are pushing too many teachers out.

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The union and the district have been in an ongoing labor dispute for months.

Several teachers Channel 9 spoke with pointed to hundreds of openings, a lack of substitutes and that they’re overworked.

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The frustration is easy to find on the Orange County Classroom Teachers Union Facebook page, with teacher after teacher sharing how they’re burned out and walking out.

“Teachers are leaving, they’ve had it,” union president Wendy Doromal said. “It’s not just the pay, it’s the amount of work they’re given.”

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The union sees hope in a recent report by a special magistrate, commissioned in the current salary impasse to weigh both sides, which agreed with teachers on several points.

The magistrate called the district’s plan to raise health care costs in a pandemic “unconscionable.”

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In response to the OCPS claim that it can only afford a $25 to $175 yearly teacher raise, the report recommended it offer a “longevity supplement” of up to $3,000 based on years of experience.

As for where the money comes from, the union points to $850 million in CARES Act money.

“They hired, for instance, assistant principals with CARES Act money. They hired what they called interventionist teachers, they said about 1,000 of them with CARES Act money, so you can use that money to hire or retain teachers,” Doromal said.

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Meanwhile, another wave of retirements is set for December.

“They’re saying they thought last year was their worst year of teaching — absolutely not, it’s this year,” Doromal said.

The school district said it is looking into the recommendations by the special magistrate. Both sides have 20 days to try to agree, and the school board gets the final say.

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.