The Florida Department of Education says that 383 Florida veterans have applied for the state program since it launched in July.
Florida has been stirring debate with their controversial mandates and legislation for quite some time. And when they recently passed laws allowing both retired police officers and veterans an easier path to teach children in the classroom, the resonance was just as charged. Despite the varying viewpoints, the act is aiding efforts in the state’s teacher shortage, as nearly 400 military veterans have now applied to become Florida teachers.
This finding was reported by News4JAX after the media outlet reached out to the state’s Department of Education inquiring how many veterans had taken advantage of the new program since its conception on July 1st. At that time, 383 Floridians had applied, with more likely since. However positive this information may be, it does little to make an immediate difference in the state’s massive shortage of educators.
It’s unclear just how many teachers the Sunshine State is currently short, but a report from The Tampa Bay Times in late August calculated state totals around 9,000. However, the vast vacancies in the industry have been escalating for years now. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration believe that the veteran’s program is one of the quickest and most advantageous methods to alleviate the issues.
So how does the veteran teacher program work? It allows those seeking teaching credentials a five-year temporary certificate without needing to meet the state’s education prerequisites. To qualify, interested parties are required to have served a minimum of four years of active duty military and have been discharged with either an honorable or medical standing.
However, there are still some stipulations before these veterans can enter the classroom. They have to have a minimum of 60 college credits in any subject. What’s more, their college grade point average must sit at 2.5 or higher.
By the end of the fifth year, veterans have to either complete their bachelor’s degree in the subject or pass the state certification exams. After being accepted into the program, these new educators will be aligned with an existing teacher to serve as a mentor. But even with stipulations, many state and national teachers and school officials fear that this is the wrong path to address teacher shortages.
After the veterans’ program made national headlines, teachers across the nation reacted on social media. Many ridiculed the act, saying it devalued the worth of teachers’ education, and could potentially place unqualified teachers in the classroom. Others lambasted the notion for failing to address the root cause of the teacher shortages.
If the veteran teaching program continues to get as many applicants as it did in just a few short months over the remainder of the year, it could prove resourceful. However, depending on what happens after the waiver period is over in five years, many naysayers’ fears may come true, and the state may be back where it began amid a massive teacher shortage. But in the interim, these programs are helping districts out, one school at a time, filling empty classrooms with much-needed staff.