Ron DeSantis Unveils Proposals for More Teachers, Including Relying on Veterans and First Responders

During an event at New Port Richey this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced three proposals for the 2023 Legislative Session that he said will help support and grow Florida’s teaching workforce and leverage the talents of retired veterans and first responders.

The proposals include a recruitment initiative targeted to bring retired first responders and retired veterans to the classroom through fee waivers and bonuses; an apprenticeship program that provides bonuses to teachers for mentoring aspiring teachers with an associate’s degree to gain hands-on teaching experience; and a scholarship program for K-12 teachers interested in teaching dual enrollment courses on high school campuses.

“These three initiatives will build on our efforts to increase recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers. Great teachers don’t become great teachers because they are sitting in a university lecture hall. What makes a teacher great is being in the classroom, watching other teachers, and seeing what works,” said DeSantis on Tuesday. “With today’s announcement, we will be helping more teachers gain that critical firsthand experience and we will be recruiting first responders and veterans to continue their service in the classroom. Our students will greatly benefit from these programs.”

“Our number one educational priority is ensuring there is a high-quality teacher in every single Florida classroom,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz. “I have been holding roundtable meetings with teachers from across the state to learn more about steps we can take to improve our recruitment and retention efforts. Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, I look forward to implementing these new initiatives and more to further increase Florida’s reputation as the education state.”

The governor’s office offered the following information about his proposals:

About Bonuses for Retired Military Veterans and Retired First Responders

Provides one-time bonuses to retired military veterans and retired first responders who commit to joining the teaching profession for two years as a full-time classroom teacher.

Recipients would also be eligible for an additional bonus, beyond the initial signing bonus, if they teach in a Florida Department of Education identified critical teacher shortage.

This initiative would also expand waiver of certification exam fees to all retired first responders.

About the Teacher Apprenticeship Temporary Certification Pathway

Establishes an additional pathway to becoming an educator. It will be the 13th different teaching pathway offered in Florida.

Applicants must have an associate’s degree from an accredited postsecondary institution, a 3.0 cumulative grade point average, and a successful passage of a background check.

Once receiving a temporary certificate, the apprentice will spend the first two years in the classroom of a mentor teacher using team teaching requirements to further develop pedagogy skills. This component would fulfill the on-the-job training component of the apprenticeship and its associated standards, allowing individuals to earn a paycheck while working toward their bachelor’s degree.

Mentor teachers must have at least seven years of teaching experience and highly effective ratings on VAM scores or district performance reviews.

These mentor teachers will be eligible for a bonus payable half after the first successful year of the apprenticeship and half after the second year.

About the Dual Enrollment Educator Scholarship Program

Establishes opportunities for K-12 teachers to receive scholarship funds towards their master’s degree to cover the full cost of tuition and fees and includes a book stipend each semester.

Once educators earn their master’s degree, they will be able to provide dual enrollment coursework directly to students on a high school campus, increasing the availability of access to dual enrollment in Florida’s high schools, particularly in low-moderate income and rural schools.

Applicants must be accepted into, or currently enrolled in, an approved graduate program in a subject in their area of certification and complete their graduate degree within three years of the award.

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