NEW PORT RICHEY, FLORIDA — Governor Ron DeSantis announced today three new education initiatives for the state to pursue during the next legislative session. The programs are focused on creating new pathways for aspiring teachers and adding incentives for active teachers.
The initiatives include a recruitment program for first responders, an apprenticeship program that would give participants with associate’s degrees the opportunity to gain two years of classroom experience under the mentorship of an experienced teacher, and a scholarship program to help current high school teachers earn their master’s degree. The latter would enable them to teach dual enrollment courses on their school campus.
In addition to incentivizing retired military veterans to pursue a second career in K-12 education, the governor’s recruitment program offers an easier path for first responders to become teachers. This includes firefighters, law enforcement and paramedics, whom the governor called “heroes.”
The state will waive fees for the required teacher certification exam and offer a $4,000 bonus to qualified applicants. Another $1,000 will be added on to the bonus if the new teacher fills a position in an area of acute shortages, such as science, special education and reading.
“We believe folks who have served our communities have an awful lot to offer,” DeSantis said.
LEARNING BY DOING
The teacher apprenticeship program benefits experienced, active teachers as well as aspiring ones. Individuals with an associate’s degree who are working to complete their bachelor’s degree can obtain real-world classroom experience under the oversight of a current teacher. Teachers will receive a $4,000 bonus for each apprentice that they mentor.
“We believe in doing and we believe in learning by doing,” DeSantis said. “The teachers that become great teachers don’t become great teachers because they’re sitting in some university lecture hall listening to some professor bloviate.”
COLLEGE CREDIT ON HIGH SCHOOL CAMPUS
For many years, high school students in Florida have benefitted from dual enrollment courses, which allow them to simultaneously earn both college and high school credits at no cost to the student. Since the courses are taught in college classrooms, students have to travel between the respective high school and college campuses. This is particularly challenging for students living in rural areas, DeSantis said.
The new scholarship program would help current teachers earn their master’s degrees, which enables them to teach dual enrollment courses from their high school campus. This would save students the time and money associated with transportation, while supporting career development for the participating teachers.