In an effort to combat teacher shortages, the Florida Department of Education is enlisting military personnel and veterans to teach in the state’s classrooms without a bachelor’s degree requirement.
Requirements for the five-year temporary teaching certificates for veterans include:
- At least 48 months of military service with an honorable or medical discharge.
- At least 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average.
- Passage of a Florida subject area exam for bachelor’s level subjects. For temporary certificates, these exams are available in more than 30 subject areas.
- Employment in a Florida school district, which can include charter schools.
Military spouses are eligible to apply for certification fee waivers and military extensions to certificates.
The alternative teaching pathway is related to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ $8.6 million initiative to expand career and workforce training opportunities for military veterans and their spouses.
Some education leaders have bristled at the policy, saying it undermines standards designed to place high-quality, fully prepared teachers in classrooms.
“Florida’s new policy shortcuts the preparation necessary to teach our nation’s students and shortchanges the veteran by setting them up for failure rather than success,” said Jacqueline Rodriguez, vice president of research, policy and advocacy at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.
“The United States Department of Defense would not recommend that a para-educator on Friday become an officer in the military on Monday,” Rodriguez said. “We can all agree that there must be standards of excellence and quality assurance in every discipline.”
AACTE advises states, districts, communities and families to advocate for profession-ready educators in classrooms, Rodriguez said. The association defines “profession-ready” as including “the standards, practices, dispositional characteristics, and the knowledge base to teach successfully and to understand how students successfully learn.”
An Arizona law signed last week by Gov. Doug Ducey also removed a bachelor’s degree requirement to teach full-time in a classroom. In all, about 12 states have dropped or changed licensure requirements over the past year, Shannon Holston, chief of policy and programs at the National Council on Teacher Quality, told K-12 Dive this week.
Doing so, Holston said, puts the burden on students and, despite providing a solution in the short term, can create longer-term problems.
Despite what it identifies as shortcomings in Florida’s initiative, AACTE emphasizes that military service members should be encouraged to explore teaching as a future career path. Rodriguez said “there are countless educator preparation programs that have successfully prepared our nation’s veterans to become fully certified, profession-ready teachers.”
Among those programs are North Carolina’s Brass to Class Act, which provides exclusive benefits to veterans teaching in elementary and secondary schools.
A major perk of the North Carolina program is that participants are awarded one year of teaching experience credit for every two years of military leadership and instructional responsibilities. That means a veteran with four years of military instruction experience and eight years of military leadership experience could earn $6,000 more than other starting K-12 teachers.
At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Defense's Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, program helps service members and veterans get jobs as K-12 teachers through its Troops to Teachers program. Unlike in the Florida program, applicants here must have a bachelor's or advanced degree from an accredited higher education institution.
Various private organizations also help military veterans enter the education workforce. Teach for America's Military Veterans Initiative, for example, provides professional development and job placement to encourage veterans to become teachers.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 5,421 military veterans taught in public and private schools in 2019. Just as the teaching profession in general is largely female, most of those veterans — 4,266 — were female.
A 2019 Thomas B. Fordham Institute paper outlined benefits to putting veterans into teaching roles. For one thing, Fordham said, it adds diversity of experiences and backgrounds. For another, veterans bring a unique skill set of collaboration and mission-driven focus gained during military service, the paper said.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated who is eligible for Florida's temporary teacher certification pathway. The story has been updated to address this.