The Florida State Board of Education recently unanimously passed a rule that allows military veterans to receive a temporary teaching certification while working to attain their bachelor’s degree.
Unfortunately, this commonsense action has been met with skepticism, rumors and flat-out falsehoods intended to serve political agendas. The president of the Sarasota County Teachers Association went as far as to say, "You can’t just throw a warm body in a classroom."
As the sponsor of the bill that established this new pathway, and as a veteran myself, I’m here to set the record straight.
Let’s start with the details. Under the new law, military veterans can obtain a five-year temporary teaching certificate without a bachelor’s degree, provided they have a minimum of 48 months of active-duty military service with an honorable or medical discharge, a minimum of 60 college credits, and pass the same Florida subject area exam as traditional teachers. Anyone who receives a temporary certification through this pathway still must earn a bachelor’s degree within five-years, or they will be unable to receive a full, professional certification to continue teaching.
As you might expect, this innovative initiative is overwhelmingly popular. In fact, it passed through the Florida legislature unanimously as part of Senate Bill 896. That’s right – not one single elected Republican nor Democrat voted against it. It was further supported by a coalition of education non-profits, including the Florida Citizens Alliance, the Florida Parent Teacher Association, and multiple veteran advocacy organizations.
It’s easy to understand the widespread support. Every year, teachers across Florida enter the classroom for the very first time. Many college graduates come with a newly minted bachelor’s degree and, ideally, some classroom exposure, such as an apprenticeship or side job in college.
Compare that experience to a veteran who has spent at least four years on active duty – not only sacrificing in service to his or her country, but also participating in courses and training exercises that focus on excellence and leadership – and likely teaching several of their own. How can anyone say the veteran isn’t just as qualified as a recent college graduate?
Finding gainful employment is one of the biggest challenges facing veterans when they leave military service. Transitioning to civilian life can be difficult, and unemployment has shown to be a contributing factor to depression and suicide.
These plagues are ravaging our veteran communities with an estimated 20 veterans taking their own lives every day. By providing a longer employment runway for veterans to earn their bachelor’s degree, Florida is putting value in their military skills and experience while helping them begin a rewarding career.
In Florida, under the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis and the state Legislature, we recognize that there are many different paths to prepare someone to teach and inspire our future generations. This veteran initiative is an addition to Florida’s 11 existing teaching pathways. It recognizes our service members while also requiring the same standards to receive a full professional teaching certification.
We are proud of the bipartisan work that established the military veterans certification pathway, and we look forward to its full implementation beginning this school year. It’s good for veterans, students, and the state of Florida – which is already ranked third in the nation for K-12 achievement.