Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to recruit retired law enforcement officers and other first responders to help deal with a teacher shortage.
"We are proposing, first, a governor's recruitment program focusing on our heroes," DeSantis said Tuesday during a press conference at New Port Richey High School in Pasco County, Florida. "In addition to recruiting retired military veterans, we also want to include first responders, law enforcement, EMTs, paramedics, [and] firefighters, who have their bachelor's degree, to become teachers and bring their leadership and wisdom into the classroom."
Similar to a new law DeSantis signed last month — that allows veterans to become teachers more easily by waiving exam fees and helping them get a temporary teacher certificate – the new program would be taken up by the Florida Legislature this session, and go to DeSantis if approved, he said.
In addition to helping get them certified, DeSantis proposed a $4,000 bonus for new recruits, and an extra $1,000 bonus for teachers who act as mentors to the new group of teachers in a separate "apprenticeship" program designed to give the recruits "real-world" classroom experience.
The moves come after the state’s Department of Education flagged a "critical shortage of teachers" for the 2022-23 school year, especially in the fields of English, exceptional student education, general and physical sciences, reading, math, and English as a second language studies, according to a department report earlier this year.
"The shortage areas above represent certification areas where substantial proportions of teachers who are not certified in the appropriate field are being hired to teach such courses, where significant vacancies exist and where postsecondary institutions do not produce enough graduates to meet the needs of Florida’s K-12 student population," the report said.
DeSantis announced a new state-operated webpage to help in recruiting veterans into teaching roles Aug. 11, in line with the signed legislation for that program.
"Florida is the most veteran and military friendly state in the nation," DeSantis said in a press release announcing the site. "We also know that our veterans have talents and skills that they can offer our students.
"This new opportunity expands Florida’s existing programs that help our veterans take their talents to our schools, and it will help Florida remain a national leader in education."
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz said in the release that the state’s 1.7 million military veterans bringing their "experience and skills" to the classroom will "positively impact" students.
"Veterans and servicemembers can now work toward their full professional certificate while imparting their unique knowledge and valuable experience in the classroom," Diaz said.
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