(The Center Square) – New legislation is being proposed for the 2023 legislative session to expand Florida’s teaching workforce, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.
Three new legislative proposals the legislature will consider next year, he said, include a recruitment initiative to hire retired military veterans and first responders as teachers, the creation of an apprenticeship program for existing teachers who mentor aspiring teachers, and a new scholarship program for K-12 teachers interested in teaching dual enrollment high school courses.
“These three initiatives will build on our efforts to increase recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers. Great teachers don’t become great teachers because they are sitting in a university lecture hall. What makes a teacher great is being in the classroom, watching other teachers, and seeing what works,” DeSantis said. “With today’s announcement, we will be helping more teachers gain that critical firsthand experience and we will be recruiting first responders and veterans to continue their service in the classroom. Our students will greatly benefit from these programs.”
“Our number one educational priority is ensuring there is a high-quality teacher in every single Florida classroom,” Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr., said. “I have been holding roundtable meetings with teachers from across the state to learn more about steps we can take to improve our recruitment and retention efforts. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, I look forward to implementing these new initiatives and more to further increase Florida’s reputation as the education state.”
The proposal to hire retired military veterans and first responders includes offering a one-time bonus to those who commit to teach for two years as a full-time classroom teacher. Eligible applicants could also receive an additional bonus on top of the initial signing bonus if they teach in a Florida Department of Education identified critical teacher shortage school. The initiative also includes waiving certification exam fees for all retired first responders.
A second legislative proposal would create a Teacher Apprenticeship Temporary Certification to enable teacher apprentices to be hired to teach in Florida public school classrooms.
Eligible applicants would an associate degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, and successfully pass a background check. After applicants receive a temporary certificate, they’d spend two years in the classroom working with a mentor teacher to fulfill an on-the-job training component of the apprenticeship program. It also would allow them to earn a paycheck while working toward their bachelor’s degree.
Mentor teachers must have at least seven years of teaching experience and effective ratings on their VAM scores or district performance reviews to qualify for the program. They would also be eligible to receive two bonuses for participating in the two-year apprenticeship program.
The third proposal would create a dual enrollment Educator Scholarship Program. The new program would allow K-12 teachers to receive scholarships toward their master’s degree that cover the full cost of tuition and fees and a book stipend every semester.
Once educators earn their master’s degree, they’d be able to provide dual enrollment coursework to high school students, particularly in low to moderate income and rural schools. Eligible applicants to the program must already be accepted or currently enrolled in an approved graduate program in a subject in their area of certification and complete their graduate degree within three years of receiving the award.
DeSantis made the announcement after he’s been encouraging military veterans to consider teaching in Florida public schools.
“For too long the requirements to be a teacher have been too rigid with union bosses insisting that educators get certain credentials that often have little impact on teaching performance,” DeSantis said. “Every morning our students recite the Pledge of Allegiance while looking at the Star-Spangled Banner. It’s fitting that the teacher in the classroom is somebody who took an oath and put his or her life on the line to preserve, protect and defend our flag and the freedom it represents.”
Last week, the state launched a new website for military veterans to apply to its Military Veterans Certification Pathway program, which became effective July 1.