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15,000 fewer Support Jobs In Florida Public Schools

Over the last few years, Florida’s public schools have been hit with billions of dollars of cuts from state and federal funding, decreased property tax revenue and sequestration. That has meant layoffs across the state.

Full-time teaching jobs have inched back to pre-recession levels. But as StateImpact Florida’s Sammy Mack reports, one group of employees hasn’t come back: support staff.

Teachers’s aides, secretaries, custodians—all the jobs that aren’t instructors or administrators. At the start of last school year there were 15,000 fewer full-time jobs in Florida public schools than there were six years ago. Almost all of those jobs — 99.5% — are support staff positions.

That means the remaining staff is left absorbing their work.
Barbara Warren is a classroom aid at Coral Reef Elementary School in Miami-Dade County. She used to work with 4 or 5 children with special needs. Now she’s responsible for 8.

The county is down a fifth of the support staff it had before the recession. Warren says parents are surprised by her workload.

"They don’t see how we able to do it with the kids. But they see the kids are being taken care of", said Warren.

And parents don’t just see it in the classroom.

Eric Moss has a daughter is in sixth grade at Lawton Chiles Middle School.

"The clerical staff here is overworked", Warren said. "Just to have one question answered I had to wait, while parents kids were dealt with by this one particular staff member at this school because there was nobody else to help these kids, there was nobody else to help these parents."

Moss had been a school volunteer at his daughter’s old school, and all he wanted to know was if he needed to go through the vetting process again at this school.

"What would have taken me maybe 5 minutes 10 years ago took 20 minutes yesterday", said Moss.

But as a recently retired teacher, he’s sympathetic to all the pressure on that one person at the front desk.

"What I’m saying happened yesterday would have happened at every school", Moss said.

And this is what’s happening all over the place - not just in schools. Fewer people to do the same amount of work. Mason Jackson is president and CEO of Workforce One Broward, an employment services center.

"All businesses are streamlining, consolidating and in some cases centralizing services in an effort to reduce overhead and that generally means reducing support personnel", Jackson said. "Businesses and organizations are concentrating resources on their core mission, in this case education."

We made several calls and emails to the Miami-Dade school district asking about the cuts, but they did not give us an interview.

Fedrick Ingram is president of the Miami-Dade teachers union, which also represents support staff.

"We’ve seen too many of our employees lose jobs for budgetary concerns", Ingram said. "It's not fair to our economy, it’s not fair to our communities, it’s not fair to families."

He hates that any cuts have been made in the schools, but even Ingram says keeping teachers in the classroom has to come first.