Why FL Veterans Without BA Degrees Aren't Replacing the Alleged "Mass Exodus" of Teachers Leaving

L. Cane

The state of Florida has had a severe teacher shortage for the past couple of years. According to Fox 13 Tampa Bay reporting in August of 2023, the state has around 8,000 teacher vacancies and about 6,000 vacancies for support staff.

Needless to say, this shortage (as well as the number of teachers leaving the profession) concerns some of Florida's leadership. Florida Representative Frederica Wilson told ABC News in December of 2022:

"Our nation is undergoing a mass exodus of teachers leaving the classroom. We can choose to take this issue head-on or lose America's teachers and have the education of our students severely impacted."

Ladara Royal, a teacher in Orlando, agrees that her colleagues are leaving, telling The Guardian in May of 2023 that some of Florida's new educational policies will cause:

“...(a) mass exodus of teachers of all races, especially minority teachers. They are not going to want to stand in front of the classroom and teach what’s coming down the pike.”

Details About the Veterans Pathway to Teaching Without a Bachelor's Degree in Florida: One initiative that may have helped bridge the gap was the Military Veterans Certification Pathway program, which allows Florida veterans without a 4-year college degree, but with 60 college credits and a 2.5 GPA to obtain a pathway to teach in Florida.

At the time of the pathway's passing, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said that Florida's veterans could share their "wealth of knowledge" in Florida's classrooms.

Small Numbers of Veterans Have Been Hired: According to ABC Action News reporting in September of 2023, only 31 veterans are teaching under the new initiative.

While 705 people applied under the initiative, only 49 received a status of eligibility. Part of this may be due to a misunderstanding as to what is required for the certification.

Althea Walker, a department manager for recruitment at Hillsborough County Public Schools, told Military.com in December of 2022, in part:

"My understanding from the applicants that I've spoken with is that they didn't know they had to meet those certifications. They thought if they were veterans and they had a college degree, they were good."

An Adovate Calls the Initiative a "Band-Aid:" Andrew Spar, head of the Florida Education Association (FEA), says that despite all of the attention given to the program, he doesn't believe that it is going to fix the teacher shortage, telling ABC Action News, in part:

“It seems like there was a lot of fanfare around this program being a huge solution to a problem. Clearly, that's not the case...What we don't want is temporary band-aids and temporary solutions. We need a long-term solution...I really appreciate the sacrifices that our military members make for our country and for our communities every day. But that doesn't necessarily mean they can just walk right in and be a teacher."

Florida's pay for teachers lags behind national averages, around $51,230. However, a new initiative would raise teacher pay to $65,000.

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