Education

DeSantis-Backed Military Vet Teaching Program Accounts for One Teacher Hire in Broward

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Nebraska Steak Fry.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Nebraska Steak Fry. Photo by Matt Johnson/Right Cheer
At the beginning of this school year, the Florida Department of Education launched a program aimed at attracting military veterans to teach in public schools to help fill thousands of vacant positions across Florida schools, including nearly 400 open teaching spots in Broward and Miami-Dade school districts.

Under the Military Veterans Certification Pathway, veterans with at least 48 months of active service, a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average, and a passing score on a state subject exam could obtain a five-year temporary teaching certificate without a bachelor's degree, which would be required for ordinary applicants. The Florida legislature created the program via a bill signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in June.

"We are leading by example with innovative teacher recruitment initiatives and in our support of military and veteran families," DeSantis said following the August implementation of the program.

With the new semester well underway, the program has not delivered what the Department of Education and DeSantis had hoped in terms of sparking a wave of new hires.

According to staffing data provided to New Times, the Broward County Public Schools system has employed only one veteran under the new pathway. As of last month, 165 classroom teaching positions remain unfilled in the county district.

Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, tells New Times the program has struggled to attract qualified applicants despite efforts to promote it. "There's a very active campaign to encourage and [to help] understand really what's in the statute," Fusco says. "We are not discouraging it at all."

Six months after DeSantis signed the temporary teaching certification pathway into law, only a handful of applications have trickled into Broward Schools, according to Fusco.

"It is a Band-Aid that hasn't put any pressure on the bleeding, let alone any type of healing," she tells New Times. "It is across the state. I've talked to other [union] presidents. No one is walking in anywhere even where there is a lower cost of living."

Military.com reported last month the program accounted for only seven hires across the more-than 70 school districts in Florida.

Fusco says that some veterans who wanted to teach through the pathway in Broward did not understand the qualifications required, and thought they could apply solely because they had served in the military.

"The narrative just got out that we are hiring military veterans, and when they really read the statute and come to [the] listening sessions, they realized, 'Okay, I may need to get a little bit more,'" she says.

Florida public schools continue to grapple with a teacher shortage, one that has been exacerbated by low pay and a difficult work environment brought about by increasingly tense classroom culture wars. Some teachers have expressed fear of reprisal for broaching sensitive topics in the classroom since the passage of controversial education legislation in Florida, including the Stop W.O.K.E. Act and the Parental Rights in Education bill, AKA "Don't Say Gay" bill.

In a 2022 report, the National Education Association ranked Florida 48th in the nation in average teacher salary, at roughly $51,000. 

"The way to stop the teacher shortage is to stop villainizing them," Fusco tells New Times. "We are not sexualizing children... We're just trying to get through state mandates, state testing, state standards, curriculum, [and] writing extensive lesson plans. It's the false narrative that needs to stop. Pay better and treat better."
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Naomi Feinstein is a fellow at Miami New Times. She spent the last year in New York City getting her master’s degree at the Columbia School of Journalism. She is also a proud alum of the University of Miami.
Contact: Naomi Feinstein

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