JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly 400 veterans have applied for teaching jobs in Florida using a new pathway created by the legislature and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, but locally, there haven’t been any hires in two of the biggest school districts.
DeSantis has touted the program in recent months that looks to military veterans to help address the ongoing statewide teacher shortage.
DeSantis signed a bipartisan bill earlier this year that gives a five-year temporary certificate to veterans who have a minimum of four years of active duty military service with an honorable/medical discharge and a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average.
In Florida, we believe veterans have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to the classroom, so we created a new program to help veterans become teachers.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) August 11, 2022
We stand by our veterans and want them in our classrooms. pic.twitter.com/PlDIb3lz8w
“We want you to be able to teach Florida students, our veterans have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to bear in the classroom. And with this innovative approach, they will be able to do so for five years with a temporary certification as they work towards their degree,” DeSantis said in August.
According to Florida Department of Education (FDOE) data requested by News4JAX, 383 veterans have applied through the program in Florida since July 1.
For perspective, there were 494 teacher vacancies in Clay, St. Johns and Duval counties combined as of two weeks ago, and hundreds more across the state.
The FDOE did not provide a breakdown by the school district, so News4JAX reached out to some local districts and found that there have been no veterans hired through the program in Duval or St. Johns counties and just one hire made in Clay County.
“I do not think that Veteran Program is the best avenue to try and treat the teacher shortage. I am not at all surprised that the number is zero, because this quick fix from the governor doesn’t address the root cause of the teacher shortage,” said Michelle Dillon, president of the St. Johns Education Association.
Dillion, who leads the teachers union in St. Johns County, points to pay as a major issue as the district continues to see a rise in vacancies since the school year started.
Florida was recently ranked 48th in the nation in average public school teacher pay, according to the National Education Association.
“I don’t really believe we should be using the phrase teacher shortage,” Dillon said. “There’s not a shortage of teachers, they are out there. They just don’t want to be in the profession anymore. They’re not coming to the profession. They’re not staying. So absolutely it is pay.”
For more information about the military veterans certification pathway, visit the Florida Department of Education.
To be eligible for the temporary certificate, applicants must demonstrate mastery of subject area knowledge either by passing the subject area exam(s) of their choice or submitting appropriate coursework. Veterans will have five years to fulfill the requirements for a professional certificate, including obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Veterans who successfully obtain their five-year temporary teaching certificate will be assigned a mentor teacher for a minimum of two years to support their classroom teaching endeavors.
DeSantis also rolled out a proposal to offer up to a $5,000 bonus to retired law enforcement, paramedics and firefighters to help solve the teacher shortage.
There were more than 8,000 vacancies to start the school year in the state, according to the Florida Education Association. News4JAX requested the current number of teacher vacancies in Florida as of this week but FDOE did not immediately respond.