As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis defends and expands his call to have military veterans bypass the teacher certification process to become educators, former educators say the move is a dangerous gamble despite the current teacher shortage.
On Tuesday, DeSantis said he wants to expand a new law allowing military veterans to become classroom teachers without a bachelor’s degree, including retired first responders such as police, firefighters and EMTs.
Ulysses Floyd, a retied teacher and member of the Orange County Classroom Teachers Association, said he taught classes when he served in the military and later used his experience to become a certified teacher. He said he does not like the proposed changes because the certification process ensures you know what to do as an educator.
“You must be certified in the area in which you are teaching,” Floyd contended. “Just because you have a bachelor’s and something else other than teaching, so I think, in order for you to be able to teach, you must know how, what you’re doing, how to do it.”
Describing college education as “overtaken by ideology,” DeSantis argued the certification requirement is too strict. The state’s new recruitment program will waive exam fees for the state teacher’s certification exam for retired military and first responders, but participants must have a bachelor’s degree.
Florida currently has a shortage of more than 6,000 teachers, according to the Florida Education Association.
Vanessa Tillman, a retired teacher and board member of Florida Education Association, said people may not realize one child brings at least six personalities. She explained when you multiply it by 18 children for a single teacher to manage, politicians overlook a lot of work.
“I do feel the political era is horrible as to politicians wanting to tell teachers how to teach,” Tillman asserted. “They want to legislate everything and not understand we are there to educate the whole child.”
Tillman emphasized there should be no room for what she called the politicization of classrooms on issues such as Critical Race Theory, cutting district funding, and the rise of politics in nonpartisan school board races.
DeSantis and Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz also rolled out a second proposal tailored to current classroom teachers: a scholarship program to allow current teachers to get master’s degrees to teach dual enrollment classes.