Like most states right now, Florida desperately needs teachers. One way the state is attempting to get them is to allow honorably discharged military members that meet certain requirements to receive a temporary teaching certificate without a bachelor’s degree. When Governor DeSantis signed SB896 into law, naturally the usual suspects began distorting the situation, insulting those involved, and freaking out.
Far from allowing trigger-happy jarheads to come straight out of the warzone and into the classroom to haze and verbally abuse students like some seem to imagine, the program still has many requirements for prospective applicants to meet. Most of these requirements are similar to those Florida and most other states have for people seeking to change careers and become teachers coming from non-teaching professions. The primary difference being the waiver of the bachelor’s degree requirement.
Is this such an unacceptable difference? They still need some college credit, they need to prove subject matter expertise, and they at least appear to be expected to finish their bachelor’s degree anyhow. Does that extra two years of college drastically outweigh the experience obtained by four years of honorable active duty military service? Is there no conceivable way to make up for the difference and potential shortcomings? Can other teachers in the school not successfully mentor the new teachers? Given the dire need for teachers and the relatively small handicap these applicants face, it seems the objections of the program’s naysayers fall rather flat. But that will not stop them from screaming them though. One of the problems with blowing things out of proportion is you make mistakes. One of the big ones that spread around the rumor mill already was that this program applied to military spouses too. Newsweek has to issue a correction upon falling for it.
Of course the real reason for the uproar is two-fold; teachers unions see it as an affront to their efforts to use the teacher shortage as leverage to demand better pay and benefits, and anything done by a Republican governor must be characterized as evil or ill-intentioned for ideological reasons.
Some seem to be confusing this measure to specifically address the teacher shortage and attempt to help military members with a larger plan meant to solve bigger problems with public education. Obviously, we can do both.
This sentiment is exemplified by a president of a teacher’s union in this article, quoted below:
Karla Hernandez-Mats, president of the United Teachers of Dade, said that this new policy was downright harmful. “It’s actually going to hurt education because when you have unqualified people educating children, the repercussions of that miseducation are actually going to be much greater than if you actually wanted to tackle the problem,” she said. Norris said a better way to deal with the teacher shortage, “other than putting people that are not ready and not prepared properly,” in the classroom, is to address the root issues that are making teachers leave the profession in the first place. “We have spoken to a lot of teachers and a lot of teachers can tell you what are some of the things and some of the reasons why they’re leaving the classroom,” Norris said. “So, we have to address things like overcrowded classrooms. We have to address the finances, the pay, and the salaries of teachers and those sorts of things before we can begin to even solve what this issue is.”
Not to be forgotten is that other states have done similar things to address their teacher shortages as well. Was their a backlash as drastic as in Republican-leaning Florida? I don’t know for sure. It is obviously preferred that all teachers have a certain amount of experience. But we must remember that different experiences are valuable too. We should embrace the diversity of experiences in the teaching profession; every teacher going through the same machine and being “certified” bthe same process and requirements is actually quite troublesome if you think about it. Of course sometimes what we must settle for is less than ideal. Sometimes it is serious, sometimes we should just laugh and do the best we can. Let’s not forget what Michigan had to do recently: