Gov. Ron DeSantis has approved a new law to create an alternative temporary teaching certificate for military veterans, saying that their prior military experience will have value in the classroom. But the law would get around a prerequisite expected of thousands of teachers in Florida — a bachelor’s degree.
Instead, the military veteran would be allowed five years to teach in a classroom while finishing a four-year degree.
While supporters of the move suggest it will help with new teacher hires, others worry that military experience may not be adequate training for public school classrooms.
A Thursday press release from the governor’s office states that the Florida Board of Education must consider a new rule that would get the new program in place.
“Our veterans have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to bear in the classroom, and with this innovative approach, they will be able to do so for five years with a temporary certification as they work towards their degree,” DeSantis said in a Rumble video Thursday. Rumble is a fringe video-sharing website, similar to YouTube.
Right now, a typical teaching degree requires a bachelor’s degree or higher, along with other qualifications to be able to obtain a professional teaching certificate.
A temporary teaching certificate also requires a bachelor’s degree. The educator, who can teach in a classroom, is allowed for three years to finish additional requirements to procure the professional teaching certificate.
But in the case of the new law, the “Educator Certification Pathways for Veterans,” certain veterans will be able to bypass the baccalaureate requirement in the temporary teaching certificate, so long as they have served four years of active-duty military service and they were honorably discharged. In addition, those veterans would need 60 college credits and earn a grade point average of at least 2.5. (A four-year degree typically requires 120 college credits.)
Darzell Warren, the president of the Escambia Education Association, previously told the Phoenix that before she was a teacher, she served in the U.S. Air Force for several years.
“There are some military vets who are going to be awesome coming into the profession, but then there are going to be vets who are going to struggle, because the military is different than coming into a classroom,” she told the Phoenix last week. “I’ve been on both sides of that.”
She added: “Yes, they have leadership skills, but you can’t treat students like you might want to treat a military subordinate.”
In addition, a veteran seeking this temporary teaching certificate pathway must be assigned a “teacher mentor” for at least two school years. The mentor is required to hold a professional teaching certificate, has at least three years of classroom experience teaching in K-12, and must be deemed “effective” or “highly effective” on aperformance evaluation in the year before.
“We do have mentor programs right now,” Andrew Spar, president of the statewide teacher union called the Florida Education Association, told the Phoenix. “But I can tell you that very often the mentor teacher is overwhelmed. And so, as a mentor teacher, they may not get to spend as much time as they would like, or as the new teacher would like, in really supporting that new teacher.”
During the Thursday Rumble video about the teaching opportunity for veterans, DeSantis blamed unions for “rigid” teaching requirements.
“For too long, the requirements to be a teacher have been too rigid, with union bosses insisting that all educators get certain credentials that often have little impact on teaching performance,” DeSantis claimed.
Spar pushed back on that notion, saying that the union has advocated for relaxing certain requirements set by the state, while still maintaining a standard of teaching quality.
“I think this is just another one of those issues for the governor to try and undermine the profession,” Spar said.
“We have a code of ethics for every teacher right now that we should maintain those ethical standards, and we should be doing everything we can to accommodate teachers once they become teachers, or when their meeting their requirements for testing and the like, in a way that makes sense. We should have that flexibility.”
“But doing away with standards does not make sense. And saying that we do not need highly trained, highly-skilled individuals in the classroom does not make sense,” Spar said.
Does not extend to military spouses
In June, DeSantis held a press conference that went over several new laws from the 2022 legislative session that involved employment opportunities for military members and their spouses, one of which included the temporary teaching pathway for veterans.
At the time, unclear messaging from the governor’s office and the Florida Department of Education led some to believe that the veteran temporary teaching certificate pathway would extend to the spouses of veterans as well.
However, the legislation that creates the temporary certificate for veterans does not include spouses in that manner, only making slight changes to fee waivers that military spouses were already eligible for.
The Florida Department of Education has since updated its webpage on the military temporary teaching certificate pathway to clarify:
“Military spouses and families are not eligible for this program,” according to the DOE, with the emphasis added.
–Danielle J. Brown, Florida Phoenix