PASCO COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced three proposals for the 2023 legislative session that aim to recruit teachers, including incentives for veterans and first responders. 

DeSantis visited Pasco County Tuesday morning to discuss teacher recruitment efforts. 

“We believe the folks who have served our communities have an awful lot to offer, and we’ve got people who have served 20 years in law enforcement and some of them are looking for the next chapter in their lives,” DeSantis said.

The governor outlined three proposals Tuesday to recruit teachers:

  1. Bonuses for retired military veterans and retired first responders
  • Provides one-time bonuses to retired military veterans and retired first responders who commit to joining the teaching profession for two years as a full-time classroom teacher.
  • Recipients would also be eligible for an additional bonus, beyond the initial signing bonus, if they teach in a Florida Department of Education identified critical teacher shortage.
  • This initiative would also expand waiver of certification exam fees to all retired first responders.

2. Teacher apprenticeship temporary certification pathway

  • Applicants must have an associate’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, and a successful passage of a background check.
  • Once receiving a temporary certificate, the apprentice will spend the first two years in the classroom of a mentor teacher using team teaching requirements to further develop pedagogy skills. This component would fulfill the on-the-job training component of the apprenticeship and its associated standards, allowing individuals to earn a paycheck while working toward their bachelor’s degree.
  • Mentor teachers must have at least seven years of teaching experience and highly effective ratings on VAM scores or district performance reviews.
  • These mentor teachers will be eligible for a bonus payable half after the first successful year of the apprenticeship and half after the second year.

3. Dual enrollment educator scholarship program

  • Establishes opportunities for K-12 teachers to receive scholarship funds towards their master’s degree to cover the full cost of tuition and fees and includes a book stipend each semester.
  • Once educators earn their master’s degree, they will be able to provide dual enrollment coursework directly to students on a high school campus, increasing the availability of access to dual enrollment in Florida’s high schools, particularly in low-moderate income and rural schools.
  • Applicants must be accepted into, or currently enrolled in, an approved graduate program in a subject in their area of certification and complete their graduate degree within three years of the award.

“I believe that the initiatives the governor Is proposing today will go a very long way to helping us recruit and retain great teachers classrooms in Pasco classrooms,” said Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning.

But not everyone supports the proposed initiatives, several bay area teachers’ unions spoke out against the announcement Tuesday.

“I’m glad to see that the governor is recognizing the crisis that we have, with our teacher shortage, but we feel like the plan is very shortsighted, and it’s not really going to help our students the way they absolutely demand and quite frankly need. We also believe firmly in the training and education that all of these professionals need to have in order to help meet the needs of the students,” said Rob Kriete, President of the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association.

The governor said he plans to push for the three initiatives in the upcoming legislative session.