Florida Gov. DeSantis proposes cops, other first responders fill teacher vacancies

He believes making it easier for law enforcement personnel and first responders to become educators will help fill the approximately 9,000 vacancies around the state.

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The governor of Florida wants police and other first responders to go from the frontlines to the front of the classroom, a move he believes will address the state’s teacher shortage.

According to the Miami Herald, Gov. Ron DeSantis is now turning to the state legislators to make it easier for law enforcement personnel and first responders to obtain temporary teaching certificates — as they did for veterans — in an effort to help fill the approximately 9,000 vacant positions around the state. 

First responders and law enforcement would be required to meet the same standards as veterans. They must hold a bachelor’s degree or have completed at least 60 hours of college credits, which is the equivalent of an associate’s degree. They must also have a minimum grade-point average of 2.5 and pass both a Florida subject area exam and a background check.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is working on a plan to get law enforcement personnel and other first responders in the classroom. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

“Just like we do for veterans, we will do for the other first responders. We will waive the exam fees for the state certification program,” DeSantis said, the Herald reported.

First responders must meet the education requirement and those who sign up will qualify for a $4,000 incentive. An additional $1,000 will go to those who teach classes or subject matters experiencing severe teacher shortages, the governor noted.

“We believe that the folks that have served our communities have an awful lot to offer,” DeSantis said. “We have people who have served 20 years in law enforcement, who have retired, and some of them are looking for the next chapter in their life.”

The governor has faced criticism for allowing veterans easier access to temporary teaching certificates from those questioning how serving in the military can equip someone to manage a classroom of pupils or meet state academic standards. Alachua County teachers union president Carmen Ward pointed out that many people have to jump through “hoops and hurdles” to obtain the appropriate teaching certification.

“[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,” Ward said, according to the Miami Herald.

There is support for temporary teaching certificates for first responders. Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco believes that offering incentives is a common-sense move, emphasizing that these individuals can draw on personal experiences and viewpoints to instruct students. 

“We can teach a lot of subjects differently and with a great twist,” Nocco said, according to the Herald, noting that law enforcement officials would be an asset because they can empathize with people from diverse backgrounds and environments. “From math, our economic detectives, they can talk a lot about how math is used. From psychology, healthcare, mental health issues, we have firsthand experience. We’ve been there and done that.” 

DeSantis said the proposed legislation would be discussed during the upcoming legislative session, which begins in March. 

Remarking on the teacher shortage, the governor said he doesn’t believe the schools have proved to be effective, noting that “ideology” has taken over.

“I think that is a turnoff for many people,” he explained. “We are saying teaching is not about learning quote, unquote education in college, it’s really about having proficiency in subjects and then learning on the ground about how to do it.”

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