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Teacher shortage may put military veterans in classrooms

The Florida Channel
Governor Ron DeSantis announces proposals for the 2023 Florida legislative session aimed at recruiting retired veterans and first responders to teach in classrooms at a press conference, Aug. 16 in New Port Richey

Military veterans could qualify as public school teachers even without four years of college. A new state law (SB 896) allows some veterans to get teaching jobs for up to five years without completing college.

The Lee County School District is welcoming applications from veterans.

"I am extremely excited to bring veterans to our classrooms," said Lee School District Assistant Director of Recruitment Suzette Rivera. She added that veterans could provide insights into a different side of life, and that students would benefit from having a teacher who also served in the military.

The law has these requirements:

  • The veteran must have served at least four years active duty and been honorably discharged.
  • The vet must have at least 60 hours college credit
  • The vet must pass a subject area exam
  • The vet must pass a background check

A veteran could get a temporary teaching certificate that is good for five years. After that time the vet would have to have earned a bachelor's degree from a college.
The Teachers Association of Lee County said it fully supports military veterans in all ways, but executive director Kevin Daly had additional comments.

"We need to look at the root cause of the teacher shortage: sub-standard pay and benefits, overcrowded classrooms, a lack of professional treatment," Daly said. "We need increased pay and benefits, and we need to get back to a place where teachers are not vilified anymore."

The nonprofit Hearts and Homes for Veterans said it supports the recruitment effort, but noted that the neediest veterans may not have any college. Thus, they would not qualify.

South Florida resident Janine Wilkins has a child in a charter school in Lee County. Wilkins welcomes any reasonable effort to get more teachers in classrooms. "I say that because my daughter had no teacher in her classroom the first day," Wilkins said.

The Lee district is holding Zoom meetings three days a week to connect with veterans, and other people, looking for jobs.
For more on Florida's Military Veterans Certification Pathway program visit here.

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Forty-one-year veteran of television news in markets around the country, including more than 18 years as an anchor and reporter at WINK-TV in southwest Florida.