Gov. Ron DeSantis is rolling out new proposals intended to bring teachers to Florida, with shortages affecting districts throughout the state.
One such proposal would take first responders, including former police officers, firefighters and EMTs, from those high-pressure environments and move them to K-12 classrooms.
DeSantis said his proposed Governor’s Recruitment Program was “focusing on our heroes,” seeking to bring former first responders in the way that former members of the military are now eligible for hire.
“We will waive the exam fees for the state teachers certification,” DeSantis vowed, floating a $4,000 bonus for all recruits and an additional $1,000 incentive for those teachers who are addressing “acute shortages” in the classroom.
“Science, ESE, reading,” DeSantis exemplified. “Those are all very important.”
“We’ve got people who served in law enforcement, retired, and now they’re looking for the next chapter in their life,” DeSantis explained.
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz was on board.
“Sheriff, we may be going back into these rows behind you to recruit,” Diaz joked. “What better place to have them than in front of our young people in the classroom?”
DeSantis rolled out other proposals beyond expanding eligibility to former first responders, including a two-year teacher apprenticeship program that would allow anyone with an associate of arts degree to get “real world classroom experience” under a mentor.
“What makes a teacher great is actually being there, doing it,” DeSantis said.
Mentors would get $4,000 bonuses per trainee.
DeSantis rolled out a second proposal tailored to current classroom teachers, a scholarship program to allow current teachers to get master’s degrees so they can teach increasingly popular dual enrollment classes. More than 92,000 students took those classes last year, which allow students to get college credit while in K-12 settings.
DeSantis was in Pasco County Tuesday, at River Ridge High School in New Port Richey, when he made the remarks. After his formal announcement, a reporter asked about recruiting international teachers, but DeSantis did not embrace the proposal.
“I don’t want to go with a foreigner over someone from our communities,” DeSantis said.
In the wake of the Governor’s announcement, Agriculture Commissioner and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nikki Fried denounced the proposal.
“Let me be clear: we should not be lowering the bar for teachers in Florida. Instead of paying teachers what they’re worth and agreeing to stop politicizing their jobs, DeSantis is trying to let Floridians with no experience and minimal training teach our kids.
“It’s not rocket science: we have a teacher shortage crisis because DeSantis has turned classrooms into battlegrounds to fight his culture wars and divide our state. Allowing anyone to teach without a certificate will push Florida even further to bottom of the rankings when it comes to the quality of our education, and our kids will ultimately pay the price,” Fried said, before saying the real issue is compensation for currently qualified teachers.
“There are plenty of qualified people who would love to be certified teachers if they were paid enough to make ends meet and didn’t have to buy basic classroom supplies with their own money,” she said. “This is unfortunately just another fight in DeSantis’ war on public education and kids in Florida.”