Military veterans can bring back soft skills like time management, structure and work ethic to the classroom, says Education Commissioner Diaz.
by Josh Miller
TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA – A controversial new policy that went into effect this July will allow qualified veterans to help fill the gap in Florida classrooms.
According to a recent Florida Department of Education announcement, the five-year temporary teaching certificate would allow veterans to teach in the classroom without a college degree. The decision is part of an $8.6 million workforce and career training program to provide more employment opportunities for military veterans and their spouses.
Florida schools ramping up for the upcoming school year can hire veterans without completed degrees to help alleviate classroom staff shortages.
Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said, "this is a great pathway for us to be able to have our veterans in this veteran-friendly state, step up to the plate and fill in those vacancies," in a recent Fox News interview.
But the move has already sparked controversy from some across the state, including the Alachua County public school district. The district, which currently has more than 60 teaching vacancies, presented the new program's details at a workshop in late July. Many teachers who attended the workshop felt this would "lower the bar" on the minimum requirements for professional teachers.
While expressing his frustration during the workshop, one school board member, Rob Hyatt appeared to be more optimistic. "Unfortunately, we, like all other school districts, are experiencing a very real shortage," he said. "I think that this legislation is a reaction to the fact … I have confidence in our HR department to make the best out of this," Hyatt said.
Mixed reactions erupted on social media after the announcement. On Twitter, Chris Dier said that “The decision by Florida to allow veterans to teach without degrees isn’t the answer to the teacher shortage. This wouldn’t be allowed in any profession that requires a degree (engineer, law, medical, etc.), and shouldn’t be allowed in education.”
Danny Burgess tweeted that ”The best ideas are homegrown. Proud to work with @Johnfsnyder & @SenMannyDiazJr to address FL’s teacher shortage. In or out of uniform, serving others is the mission & our veterans have incredible potential in FL classrooms. #FLvets”
CERTIFICATES STILL REQUIRED
The Department of Education confirmed that teaching certificates are still required, and schools have discretion when hiring veterans. However, Diaz cited that many who receive them would finish their college degree while working for the school, “giving them the opportunity to get to the bachelor's degree and finish the requirements that are required for all teachers in the state.”
With veterans, soft skills like time management, structure, and work ethic could transfer to the classroom. “This is important in our classrooms because we're missing some of that with today's younger generation,” said Diaz.
According to the new law, veterans must meet specific criteria to receive a temporary certificate. Requirements include four years of service in the military with an honorable discharge, 60 college credits minimum, a 2.5 GPA, and passing an exam on the subject matter applicable to the teaching position. They must also work alongside a teaching mentor if a school district hires them.
The Department of Education says that more than 100 applicants have applied to teach through this new program.