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Is Florida’s new Veteran Teacher Program a good thing?

Is Florida’s new Veteran Teacher Program a good thing?

Recently, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis orchestrated a new program called the Military Veterans Certification Pathway. This program allows veterans to become teachers without having the traditional educational requirement of a bachelor’s degree.

Instead, veterans are required to have:

  • Minimum of 48 months of military service with an honorable/medical discharge.
  • Minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade-point average.
  • Passing score on a Florida subject area examination.
  • Employment in a Florida school district, including charter schools; and
  • Cleared background screening.

This tactic is designed to assist in making up for the huge teacher and education support staff vacancies.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) has been tracking the advertised vacancies for teachers since 2016 and began to include support staff last year. In August 2021, they found that there were nearly 9,000 vacancies, consisting of 4,961 teaching vacancies, and 3,753 support staff positions.

The teaching vacancy numbers increased more than 67 percent within one year. Five months later, the total vacancies increased to 9,500, advertised teaching jobs decreased by almost 609, but the staff vacancies increased to 5,222.

One of the reasons teachers are hard to get in Florida is because of pay. Per, Florida ranks 48 of 51 for teachers’ pay in 2022, which is 4.6 percent less than the average pay of all other occupations within the state, and $6,410 less than the national average.

It’s difficult to be a teacher in Florida because of the cost of living. While the average cost of living within Florida is below average, recent inflation may not be reflected in the current cost of living models. In March of this year, the S&P

CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index found that home prices in Miami rose 32 percent, and 34 percent in Tampa, compared to the previous year.

It is not surprising that this program is met with mixed reviews.

Army instructors are given a two-week course called Army Basic Instructor Course (ABIC), and a 5-day course called Small Group Instructor Training Course (SGITC). Only a small percentage of veterans have an instructor course background or teaching experience.

This program could be seen as a way to continue to pay teachers less, and the use of veterans is a shield to prevent naysayers from fighting it. These potential teachers will theoretically be paid less because they have less education and experience than degree-holding teachers. There is also an assumption that veterans will be receiving VA disability, so they have additional income that would supplement a lower teaching salary.

Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to put a band-aid on a compound fracture instead of re-aligning it.

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