TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a press conference in New Port Richey on Tuesday to discuss teacher recruitment. To address the ongoing teacher shortage in Florida, DeSantis pitched new ideas to recruit more people into state classrooms.

“We believe the 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 proposed three new initiatives to deal with the statewide teacher shortage and get educators in classrooms while in New Port Richey, alongside members of law enforcement.

  • First responders who have their bachelor degree will have fees waived for the state certification exam, receive a $4k bonus & an additional $1k for those willing to teach specific subjects (science, reading, ESE, etc.)
  • Teacher apprenticeship program: Floridians with associates degree will get 2 years experience in the classroom under mentor and go on to receive their bachelor’s degree. Mentor’s will receive $4K bonus for every apprentice
  • Scholarship program: Help current high school teachers ear their masters degree so they can teach dual enrollment at their current campus.

“Just last week this district was facing upwards of 350 teacher vacancies as of yesterday we’re down to 195,” Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browing said.

New Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr., said that by allowing military members to enter the education work force, thanks to recent legislation and initiatives in Florida, the “pool of teachers” could increase “systematically.”

Part of the proposal includes additional bonuses for retired military and retired first responders who join the teaching profession for at least two years. Details on the proposals came from the Governor’s Office.

Teacher Apprenticeship Temporary Certification Pathway:

  • Establishes an additional pathway to becoming an educator. It will be the 13th different teaching pathway offered in Florida.
  • 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.

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.

Additionally, DeSantis is proposing a dual enrollment educator scholarship program for K-12 teachers.

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.

“Our number one educational priority is ensuring there is a high-quality teacher in every single Florida classroom,” Diaz said. “I have been holding roundtable meetings with teachers from across the state to learn more about steps we can take to improve our recruitment and retention efforts. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, I look forward to implementing these new initiatives and more to further increase Florida’s reputation as the education state.”