When the school year started in 2022, there were 5,208 teaching vacancies in Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis’ answer to the critical “teacher shortage” was the creation of the veteran to teacher certification pathway, which 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. Now, 6 months after the program has started, only 7 total veterans have been hired for the program in the entire state.
“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 the the Florida Department of Education’s Critical Teacher’s Shortage Report, a projected total of 9,709 vacancies are expected this year. Many teachers are expected to quit over the winter break.
Experts say that the vacancies Florida is experiencing is largely attributed to low teacher pay. Florida is ranked 48th in the nation in teacher’s pay.
Military.com reports that in an email to them, the Florida DOE reported the program had a total of 538 applications, of which only 7 were approved.
Althea Walker, a department manager for recruitment at Hillsborough County Public Schools, told Military.com that many veterans didn’t understand how involved the process was to get certified.
“My understanding from the applicants that I’ve spoken with is that they didn’t know they had to meet those certifications. They thought if they were veterans and they had a college degree, they were good,” Walker told Military.com. “We’ve heard from our politicians in the state ‘that anyone can teach,’ which doesn’t help.”
“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.
“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.”
According to the data, the number of qualified teachers are out there, however, in Florida it appears that being a teacher isn’t as desirable as it used to be. Scott Maxwell from the Orlando Sentinel summed it up in a tweet.