Florida’s plan to ease its shortage of classroom educators by creating a pathway for military veterans without a college degree to obtain a five-year voucher to teach at public or charter schools is infuriating the teachers unions.
Florida is currently facing more than 4,300 teaching vacancies as the new school year approaches. In an effort to recruit military veterans to fill some of the jobs, the state has decided to modify the requirements for obtaining teaching certificate vouchers.
In order to qualify, veterans must have served for at least 48 months on active duty and have received an honorable or medical discharge. They must also have at least 60 qualifying college credits with at least a 2.5 grade point average. Applicants must also pass a state subject area examination that shows a bachelor’s level mastery.
The new policy went into effect on July 1. It provides fee waivers for military spouses, although they must meet ordinary civilian requirements to obtain a voucher.
As fewer and fewer new college graduates are deciding to enter public education, many Florida teachers have acknowledged how the severe shortage is harming schools and students. However, many members of teachers unions are particularly unhappy that the new requirements allow non-college graduates to teach.
Alachua County Education Association president Carmen Ward said that her local union and the Florida Education Association are “always fighting to lift our profession up.” She said that there are plenty of veterans working in Florida schools, but “they have four-year degrees.”
Ward said that because teaching public school students is an “academic position,” the job requires that a teacher have “academic experience” in the subject they teach.
She added that teachers have “pedagogy.” She said that teaching is “not just a science, but an art.” Even though her primary objection seems to be that veterans without degrees are being allowed to teach, she said the union does “not believe that anyone, regardless of their education, can be a teacher in a classroom.”
Sarasota County Teachers Association president Barry Dubin told reporters that schools “can’t just throw a warm body in a classroom” and said, “That’s not the answer.”
Republican Florida Governor and military veteran Ron DeSantis expressed his strong positive feelings about the new guidelines. He said that America owes its freedom to our veterans and he is “focused on ensuring Florida is the best state in the nation for those who have served to find great jobs.”
He added that Florida is aiming to be the best state for veterans to start businesses and raise and support their families. DeSantis added that the state’s schools are not unlike other employers that are “looking for the leadership skills, training and teamwork military veterans bring to the workforce.”