Florida has 9,000 teacher vacancies it needs filled before the summer comes to a close and the new academic year begins. The state’s Department of Education announced last week that military veterans can now fill those roles.

“Our public schools are really at a crisis level seeing this massive number of vacancies,” Andrew Spar, Florida Education Association president, told ABC Action News. “In 2010, there were 8,000 graduates from Florida’s colleges and universities becoming teachers. That number was between 2,000 and 3,000 for the year that just ended. That’s a significant drop-off.”

Veterans will now receive a five-year voucher that allows them to teach in the classroom without typical accreditation or the necessary education requirements that other certified teachers must possess.

The move is part of an $8.6 million statewide initiative to provide careers and workforce training to veterans and their dependents.

“We owe the freedoms we enjoy as Americans to our military veterans, and I am focused on ensuring Florida is the best state in the nation for those who have served to find great jobs, start or grow businesses and support their families,” said Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in a statement. “Business is booming in Florida, and employers are looking for the leadership skills, training and teamwork military veterans bring to the workforce.”

The state’s Department of Education currently expects veteran candidates without degrees seeking teaching positions to have at least 60 college credits and a baseline 2.5 GPA. They need to pass the subject area examination for bachelor’s level subjects, as well.

In addition, their service needs to amount to 48 months in the military, with an honorable or medical discharge. If hired by a school, they are required to be supervised by a teaching mentor.

Teachers and local unions, on the other hand, feel this move will lower the standard of education for Florida schools.

“You can’t just throw a warm body in a classroom, that’s not the answer,” Barry Dubin, president of the Sarasota County Teachers Association, told the Herald Tribune.

While the shortage is dire, the decision to use veterans as a stop-gap measure has educators questioning the state’s criteria for teachers.

“There are many people who have gone through many hoops and hurdles to obtain a proper teaching certificate,” Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County teachers union, said. “(Educators) are very dismayed that now someone with just a high school education can pass the test and can easily get a five-year temporary certificate.”

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digital Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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