DeSantis proposes three solutions to teacher shortage

Education

(NewsNation) — Students are heading back to school this month, but a massive teacher shortage is creating major setbacks to the new school year.

Pandemic fatigue, burnout and retirement are just a few of the reasons some teachers are taking an extended recess.

The Florida Education Association reported more than 9,000 vacancies: 4,300 teaching jobs and 5,200 nonteaching, essential jobs.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed three new initiatives to solve the statewide teacher shortage and provide classrooms with educators. He said he would like to recruit those he has called the “state’s heroes” to step into the classroom and help fill the shortfall.

  • Bonuses for military veterans and retired first responders: First responders who have their bachelor degrees will have fees waived for the state certification exam, receive a $4,000 bonus & an additional $1,000 for those willing to teach specific subjects (science, reading, ESE, etc.).
  • Teacher Apprenticeship Temporary Certification Pathway program: Floridians with associates degrees will get 2 years experience in the classroom under a mentor and go on to receive their bachelor’s degrees. Mentors will receive $4,000 bonuses for each apprentice.
  • Dual Enrollment Educator Scholarship program: Help current K-12 teachers earn their master’s degrees so they can teach dual enrollment at their current campus. Teachers will receive scholarship funds to cover the full cost of tuition and fees for their schooling.

“We believe that the folks that have served our communities have an awful lot to offer. And we’ve got people that have served 20 years, and in law enforcement, they retire and some of them are looking for kind of the next chapter in their life,” DeSantis said at a press conference Tuesday.

Critics of DeSantis’ proposal say the state should not lower the bar for teachers in Florida rather than paying teachers what they are worth.

The proposals outlined by DeSantis would not have an effect on this school year, but would be introduced during the next 2023 legislative session and put to a vote in March.

WFLA reported back in March that DeSantis approved $800 million in funds to be allocated from the state’s yearly budget to help raise teacher salaries. But the measure wasn’t enough for teachers, and Andrew Spar, president of the Florida Education Association, said it wasn’t addressing the bigger issue.

On Wednesday, the State Board of Education will listen to DeSantis and consider implementing a new program for veterans, which would allow them to receive a five-year temporary education certificate while they finish their bachelor’s degrees. This rule would implement SB 896, which passed the Florida House and Senate this year. The legislation would assign veterans with the five-year certificate to a mentor teacher for a minimum of two years to support classroom endeavors.

NewsNation affiliate WFLA contributed to this report.

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