JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Some education workers worry the governor’s new plan to fix the statewide teacher shortage could backfire.
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plan is to allow people with relevant experience and knowledge to become a teacher and on its surface, that sounds pretty straightforward, but News4JAX has heard from teachers union leaders who say certain parts of the plan disregard the fact that experience in the subject matter is one thing but teaching experience is another.
They say you need both to be an effective, qualified teacher.
Gov. DeSantis made another push Wednesday in Pensacola for three initiatives targeting Florida’s shortage of classroom teachers.
“We’re trying to incentivize a lot of the best in our society to continue serving here in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said.
The new program, if approved by the legislature, would offer bonuses to retired first responders and military members as long as they have a four-year college degree, pass the state subject area exam and land a job in a school district or charter school.
Desantis said that a teaching degree isn’t necessary.
“Obviously, you have to have some type of aptitude to be in front of students, no one is arguing that, but the idea that you can somehow you can never set foot in the classroom until you finally have that four-year degree, I mean I don’t agree with that, I think that this is an important pathway,” DeSantis said.
Another program allows educators with just a two-year degree to start teaching under a mentorship program with a more-experienced teacher.
Michelle Dillon heads the St. Johns County Education Association and said the implication that an education degree is irrelevant to the job demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what a teacher does.
“You get the detailed instruction, from professors who are experts in their field, again, on the pedagogy on the effective instruction, on how to differentiate your subject matter on the detailed content of your subject matter whether it be reading mathematics, or science, the classroom management skills, the internship with a teacher in a school, the communication skills, you’re missing out on all of those that our fabulous universities and colleges offer,” Dillon said.
Dillon said knowing math, science or history is one thing but teaching is another skill set.
For example, a degree in biology doesn’t include courses on what to do if a student is caught cheating on an assignment.
Dillon said there is a solution to the teacher shortage though.
“So the solution is to pay us what we’re worth. Despite some of the advances DeSantis and the legislature have made Florida still ranks I believe 47th or 48th in the nation. It’s an embarrassment,” she said.
Dillon also said the language that many elected officials and political candidates have been using that implies that teachers are “indoctrinating” students is also causing teachers to burn out and leave the profession.
She said the way this problem gets fixed is by changing the conversation around the teaching profession and making it a more attractive, more lucrative and respected line of work.