ESCAMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday highlighted aspects of the state’s proposed Military Veteran Certification Pathway ahead of talks within the Florida Department of Education to formalize its rules.
During a news conference at Cordova Park Elementary School in Pensacola, DeSantis elaborated on his announcement Tuesday of the same initiatives, which he said were meant to address a teaching shortage in Florida.
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The multi-faceted proposal would involve the creation of recruitment and apprenticeship programs meant to invite and train military veterans, first responders, law enforcement, EMTs, paramedics and firefighters seeking to become educators.
It would also involve the development of a scholarship program meant to help high school teachers get a master’s degree and teach dual-enrollment classes at their current school.
“You can sit in a university lecture hall, but that does not supplant what you learn in the life experiences with being in those military units, understanding how to lead people, understanding how to be in difficult circumstances, and so our view is is that, you know, those folks are bringing a wealth of experience and knowledge,” DeSantis said. “I think the students look up to them, I think it’s a big deal. So we want them to look to our education system as a place where they can land and continue to serve our communities.”
In DeSantis’ current proposal, teacher certification exam fees are to be waived for both veterans and first responders, and a $4,000 hiring bonus would increase to $5,000 should there be a “critical” shortage at the time.
Those with at least an associate’s degree would be allowed to teach for two years under a “teacher mentor” as they complete their four-year degree, with the mentor to be paid $4,000 as an incentive to take an apprentice, he said.
“If you have four years of active duty military service, if you’ve been honorably discharged, if you have a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 or better grade point average and you have a passing score on the subject/area exam for the course you want to teach, you’re going to be able to get a five-year temporary teaching certificate, you’ll be eligible to be hired as you work to get your four-year bachelor’s degree,” DeSantis said.
Florida’s Board of Education will meet Wednesday to vote on implementing rules put forth in legislation DeSantis signed earlier this year.
The board will also implement a rule change Wednesday requiring Florida’s public colleges and universities to retroactively award credit hours to veterans based on courses taken while in the military, DeSantis said.
“Obviously you’ve got to have a certain amount of aptitude to be in front of students, no one’s disputing that, but the idea that somehow you can never set foot in the classroom until you finally have that four-year degree, you know, I don’t agree with that. I think this is an important pathway and I think it makes a lot of sense,” DeSantis said.
As the board meets to formalize those rules, Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said Wednesday that the pathway has been picking up interest.
“We’re going to be doing a couple of rules today here in Pensacola at the state board, and to let you know governor, that the military veterans certification pathway — the rule will be passed today, hopefully — we already have 215 veterans that have applied, and this has only been around for a couple of weeks,” Diaz said.
Regarding changes to teacher pay, DeSantis said he would make an announcement “in the coming weeks.” Currently, the governor said he looked forward what to the board of education would decide.
“This will be a great day when they finalize these two rules here in Northwest Florida with the Board of Education, and it’s also going to be great to be able to bring these other initiatives across the finish line when the legislature meets next,” DeSantis said.
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