(NewsNation) — With about three weeks left until students start the new school year, Florida is taking a new approach to address its current teacher shortage: It’s turning to veterans and their spouses to head to the classroom and teach.
The Florida Education Association reports more than 9,000 vacancies: 4,300 teaching jobs and 5,200 non-teaching, essential jobs. At the same time, the state is trying to expand workforce opportunities for veterans and their spouses.
The Florida Department of Education announced that military veterans and their spouses could receive five-year vouchers to allow them to teach in the classroom without a teacher’s degree. The move is tied to $8.6 million the state announced would be used to expand career and workforce training opportunities for military veterans and their spouses.
Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County Education Association and a member of the Florida Education Association, is one of many school leaders who think this move is a way to “devalue the teaching profession.”
“We are always fighting to lift our profession up — we have a lot of veterans that work currently in our schools; however, they have four-year degrees. Because it is an academic position, it requires that the person who is teaching the subject matter have academic experience with that subject matter,” Ward said.
She continued: “And not to mention that teachers have pedagogy. It is not just a science, but an art to be able to teach children to read. We do not believe that anyone, regardless of their education, can be a teacher in a classroom.”
The Florida Department of Education says those eligible to apply include:
Active duty service members of the U.S. Armed Forces or reserve unitThe spouses of active duty service members of the U.S. Armed Forces or reserve unitVeterans who were honorably discharged or retired from service as members of the U.S. Armed Forces or reserve unitsThe spouses of veterans who were honorably discharged or retired from service as members of the U.S. Armed Forces or reserve unitsThe surviving spouses of veterans or service members who died while on active duty as members of the U.S. Armed Forces or reserve units
Meanwhile, Ward said she and other leaders aren’t against the idea of veterans coming in to fill the teacher vacancies; she just thinks it would be better if veterans “come in with at the baseline of being a paraprofessional or a substitute teacher, to give them a full classroom to experiment with.”