TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was joined by Education Commissioner Manny Diaz in Pensacola Wednesday to address the ongoing teacher shortage pressuring school districts across the state.
For some time, school districts have blamed the teacher shortage on a combination of high stress and low pay. But the governor’s new plan seeks to change that by turning to military veterans who are looking for a place where they can land and continue to serve their communities.
“If you look at places where we need to fill spots, where better to look than folks that have already served out country in a variety of different ways,” DeSantis said.
The governor made a similar pitch Tuesday while in Pasco County. He highlighted a new set of initiatives to increase the number of teachers in Florida, not only saying he wanted to have veterans in teaching roles, but also expand that effort to include first responders through a new teacher apprenticeship program.
In Pensacola, DeSantis said the state wanted to continue the momentum of increasing teacher salaries t hat had started in previous years. Beginning in 2020, Florida poured hundreds of millions of dollars into increasing minimum salaries for Florida educators. The law had set the new minimum salary at $47,500.
DeSantis said the goal was to use new funding for school districts to raise the salaries.
“We want to be able to recruit more people as we have vacancies. You’re hearing a lot about national teacher vacancies, and we have some,” DeSantis said. “We actually have less per capita than the national average and way less than some of these other states per capita. We want to make this attractive.”
He also continued his commentary on taking ideology and indoctrination out of K-12 education.
“We’re also proud on really focusing the education on core academic subjects and not have ideology or indoctrination into the K-12 schools,” DeSantis said. “How you would think that it would be appropriate to have these elementary school kids that you may be a girl. That is wrong.”
The governor said schools and teachers should instead focus on topics like adding and subtracting, reading and writing, and other core academic subjects, while also teaching “kids about our country” and “preparing them for citizenship.”
Some of the new materials shown to state educators to prepare for new curriculum in the 2023 school year includes material designed to have Florida teach students to be “desirable citizens.“
“If you think about the values and the principles that our country stands on, it wouldn’t amount to very much if you didn’t have the people who went out and risked their lives to defend those values,” DeSantis said.
At the event in Pasco County on Tuesday, DeSantis outlined the programs to recruit more teachers from law enforcement. The governor’s office released the following details for the new initiatives.
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.
In Pensacola, DeSantis promoted those same programs at his “Recruiting Teachers” event.