By Gary Nelson

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – At the Broward County Convention Center Monday, the third floor was jammed with unemployed school teachers looking to win a job in the school district. Some 2,000 applied for 300 positions that are opening up.

A “lucky” 1,200 of those were invited to be interviewed.

It was not as much a hiring opportunity as a re-hiring opportunity. Many of those applying were laid off teachers, looking to win a job back.

When CBS4’s Gary Nelson asked one crowd of applicants for a show of hands of those who had previously been let go by the district, most hands went up.

“I taught English, ninth grade honors,” said Natalie Felipe. “I loved it, but I got the boot.”

She’s certainly not alone.

In 2008, the Broward district had some 16,000 teachers. That number dropped to roughly 14,000 in 2012.

District administrators said they would love to hire all of them back and then some, but Susan Rockelman, in charge of teacher recruitment, said unfunded mandates, cuts from the state and plummeting property tax revenues won’t allow it.

The Broward Teachers Union said Monday parents and taxpayers get what they pay for.

“We know that schools have to be well-funded,” said BTU’s administrator John Tarka. “What we’ve seen in Florida and other states is a move away from proper funding.”

Tarka was particularly critical of tax dollars going to fund private, for-profit charter schools that have delivered sketchy performance.

“Public money should fund public schools,” Tarka said.

At the job fair, laid-off teacher Sheila Frank said being unemployed is tough for her, but the real losers are students.

“The students are really losing a lot, losing the experience of having good teachers that are passionate about their jobs,” she said.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, our kids, among industrialized nations, rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

The union’s Tarka says the poor performance is largely due to standardized testing that forces teachers and schools to “teach the test,” rather than critical learning skills.


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