Conor Norris, Edward Timmons: Florida parents have nothing to fear from trooper teachers
Young female teacher or a student writing math formula on blackboard in classroom.

Young female teacher or a student writing math formula on blackboard in classroom.
'In reality, this incremental reform will remove some hurdles for veterans without harming students. '

With a plethora of openings for teachers across the state, the Florida Legislature recently passed SB 896, helping to combat the shortage of available teachers. The bill offers an alternate pathway for military veterans who want to become teachers. Despite the worries and dire predictions, in reality, this incremental reform will remove some hurdles for veterans without harming students.

Schools across the U.S. are facing a shortage of teachers, and Florida is no exception. Professional burnout drove nearly half a million teachers from the profession, as pandemic-related safety guidelines forced frequent changes to instruction and added incredible stress.

In Florida, school districts are looking to fill around 9,000 vacancies for teachers. Before the pandemic, it was less than half the current level. This is a serious problem that can disrupt students’ education.

SB 896 can help — but not solve — the current shortage. The new law expands pathways for veterans to become teachers. But some are concerned that it lowers requirements too much and will harm students.

It is important to consider this reform in the right context. Before SB 896, Florida offered multiple pathways outside of the traditional route. Some examples include:

— Mid-career professionals can attend an Educator Preparation Institute that provides training for their move to the classroom.

— Non-degree teachers of career education can teach specific subjects directly related to their education and career experience without further training.

— The Federal Troops to Teachers program provides counseling and helps returning service members meet their education requirements.

Temporary Educator Certificates require a bachelor’s degree and completion of a competency exam. It is valid for three years, after which the Certificate holder must obtain a permanent teaching certificate.

The new pathway offered to former service members is most similar to the Temporary Educator Certificate. Former service members that served a minimum of 48 months with an honorable or medical discharge are eligible. They must earn a 2.5 GPA for 60 college credits and pass the same subject matter exam as the Temporary Educator Certificate. Unlike the temporary educator certificate, this reform only includes grades 6-12. The certificate is valid for five years, during which time the holder must meet the requirements for a permanent teaching certificate.

Rather than “lowering the bar” in Florida’s classrooms, it simply relaxes the bachelor’s degree requirement for veterans, by accepting their military experience. Military training builds useful skills that veterans use to succeed in numerous post-service careers — the types of skills that many college courses seek to develop in students.

We shouldn’t prevent a veteran from teaching just because they didn’t take an unrelated college elective. Four years of military service, two years of college, and passing a state exam means they are much more than a “warm body” in a classroom.

Teachers have to meet a lot of requirements, and that’s because teaching can be really hard. Anyone with kids knows that. Many of them continue on to earn master’s degrees while teaching to improve their skills. So, some may think that allowing veterans to teach without a bachelor’s degree seems downright insulting.

But in reality, it’s a relatively minor reform. The state will accept military experience as some of the training to allow them to get their foot in the door.

The ability to jump through unnecessary hoops should not define a good teacher. What really matters is demonstrating the ability to educate effectively in the classroom. Now, when Florida needs teachers more than ever, removing hurdles for veterans is a win-win for job seekers, students, and parents.

___

Conor Norris is the assistant director and Edward Timmons is the director of the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation at West Virginia University. Timmons is also a senior research fellow with the Archbridge Institute.

Guest Author


5 comments

  • PeterH

    August 9, 2022 at 1:15 pm

    Untrained, undereducated college dropouts with 60 college credits have no place in a Florida classroom. We need qualified teachers …. not babysitters with two years of college.

  • YYep

    August 9, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Pros and cons about that.
    Pro’s some might be good at. Teaching
    Cons learning to drive a tank and bring home a baby not educational enough.
    Cons necrological problem’s like PTSD well that makes one angry and confused

  • ScienceBLVR

    August 10, 2022 at 7:30 am

    As an educator with a bachelors and masters degree, I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about this, but after learning the criteria, it may not be such a bad idea. My son called quite upset that unqualified former military might be teaching my high school level grandchildren, especially in content areas like algebra and calculus, but if someone can pass the state exam for those subjects, hey, why not? I like the idea of the focus on career technical ed, as that is the way of the future for many students who don’t attend college for a liberal arts, medical , or other degree programs. Military experience for many careers would certainly be relevant and useful. NOW, the big question, is how prepared ex military folks will be to deal with student behaviors? A classroom is not a barracks, and kids don’t respectively salute and always follow the rules.. time will tell, but I say let’s have an open mind on this one. And, let’s elect some Democrats who support public education and teachers instead of the authoritarian dictatorship that is currently in place.

  • marylou

    August 10, 2022 at 12:49 pm

    ” how prepared ex military folks will be to deal with student behaviors?” Well, Republicans do tend to have a 2nd Amendment answer for everything….

  • Phil Beasley

    August 14, 2022 at 3:51 pm

    Finland attracted the best and brightest university graduates to teach in their public schools. Instead of lowering standards, Finland increased them. Finland enjoys the finest public educational institutions in the world just as the US did before World War II. It was the common education of the average American that some say, won the war, by not only being citizen soldiers, but by becoming the most productive work force in history. Vets can use their service benefits to secure a bachelors degree to join a profession based on completing their educational requirements.

Comments are closed.


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