NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. — Hoping to expand upon a recently passed law allowing military veterans an easier path to becoming an educator, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday announced three proposed initiatives reaching out to other groups.
DeSantis was joined by Education Commissioner Manny Diaz at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey.
The law passed earlier this year allows the Florida Department of Education to provide teaching jobs to veterans who have served a minimum of four years of service and a 2.5 or higher grade point average in at least 60 college credits. A Bachelor's degree is not required.
DeSantis proposed expanding the program to "everyday heroes," including law enforcement and first responders who hold a Bachelor's degree. They would be eligible for the $4,000 bonus offered to military members, as well as an additional $1,000 if their chosen subject of education is among the "acute shortage" areas — subjects like science, reading, and exceptional student education (ESE).
The state would waive certification exam fees for people in this program.
A further initiative would create an apprenticeship program, by which anyone with at least an associate's degree could enter into a two-year mentorship with a tenured educator. This would allow the person to obtain professional experience in the classroom and provide an important step towards being certified.
A third proposal offered by the governor would begin a scholarship program for current high school teachers who wish to enroll in further education to obtain a Master's degree in a more intensive field of education.
The governor said he would make these priority actions for the next legislative session.
Florida currently has a shortage of more than 6,000 teachers, according to the Florida Education Association.
Union President Andrew Spar calls the measure "too little, too late."
He blames much of the teacher shortage on the governor's policies, which he claims, vilifies teachers.
"For the Governor to continue to make these accusations against teachers, at a time when we can’t even get teachers to stay in the profession, is very problematic," Spar said. "It goes to show he is driven strictly by politics and not policy."
DeSantis told reporters on Tuesday he believes the teacher shortage is blamed on, what he calls, indoctrination in colleges and universities that teach education.
"I think most people who would want to get into it, they want to get into it and they want to be there and they want to help students. They don’t want to be a cog in some indoctrination machine," the Governor said.
The two democrats vying for the nomination to run against DeSantis both came out against the proposal.
Former Governor and current U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist said DeSantis is “doing a disservice to our children.”
"Let me be clear: we should not be lowering the bar for teachers in Florida. Instead of paying teachers what they're worth and agreeing to stop politicizing their jobs," said Florida AG Commissioner and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Nikki Fried. "DeSantis is trying to let Floridians with no experience and minimal training teach our kids."