Teachers unions in Florida are concerned about a new state policy which will allow veterans without a college degree to receive a five-year voucher to teach at a state public or charter school.
According to reports, Florida currently has more than 4,300 teaching vacancies with a new school year fast approaching. In an effort to fill some of these essential positions, the state has adjusted the requirements for military veterans in the hopes of attracting some of them into the classroom.
Veterans who wish to apply for the teaching voucher must have:
- Minimum of 48 months of active duty military service with an honorable/medical discharge
- Minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average
- Passing score on a Florida subject area examination for bachelor’s level subjects which demonstrate mastery of subject area knowledge
- Employment in a Florida school district, including charter schools
The policy went into effect on July 1 and offers fee waivers for military spouses as well, though contrary to some reports, spouses are still subject to the same requirements as other civilians.
While many teachers acknowledge that the shortage is dire and that fewer and fewer recent graduates are electing to become teachers, many Florida teachers union members are unhappy with the new policy for veterans, particularly the education requirements.
“We are always fighting to lift our profession up," Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County Education Association and a member of the Florida Education Association, said. "We have a lot of veterans that work currently in our schools. However, they have four-year degrees. Because it is an academic position, it requires that the person who is teaching the subject matter have academic experience with that subject matter."
“And not to mention that teachers have pedagogy," Ward added. "It is not just a science, but an art to be able to teach children to read. We do not believe that anyone, regardless of their education, can be a teacher in a classroom.”
Tina Certain agreed.
"It's not that I'm against the service that veterans provide to our country," Certain said. "I just think that to the education profession, we're lowering the bar on that and minimizing the criteria of what it takes to enter the profession."
“You can’t just throw a warm body in a classroom. That’s not the answer,” said Barry Dubin, president of the Sarasota County Teachers Association.
However, Gov. Ron DeSantis is optimistic about the new plan:
“We owe the freedoms we enjoy as Americans to our military veterans, and I am focused on ensuring Florida is the best state in the nation for those who have served to find great jobs, start or grow businesses and support their families,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Business is booming in Florida, and employers are looking for the leadership skills, training and teamwork military veterans bring to the workforce.”