Polk Education Association speaks out against governor's plan to recruit veterans to fill teacher vacancies

The Polk Education Association and other unions are speaking out against Governor Ron DeSantis' plan to help solve the teacher shortage.

The governor wants to loosen up the rules of becoming a teacher, which he said are too rigid. DeSantis wants to make it easier for veterans without a bachelor’s degree to teach.

"Our veterans have a wealth of knowledge and experience they can bring to bear in the classroom," DeSantis recently said.

Head of the Polk Education Association, which represents teachers and other staffers, agrees, but said life experience is not enough.

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"I think that military veterans bring immense knowledge to whatever field they decide to go into after their military experience," Stephanie Yocum, of the Polk Education Association, told FOX 13. "But at the end of the day, our kids deserve certified teachers in front of them."

Yocum said that means that teachers should have a four-year bachelor’s degree, and extensive training. 

The governor’s new program allows veterans with a two-year degree and competency in their subject area to jump into the classroom. Under his plan, the veteran will be monitored by a more experienced teacher, and required to earn their bachelor’s degree within five years.

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Gary Clark, of the Polk County Veteran’s Council, said tapping veterans to go into the classroom is an idea that is long overdue.

"They are going to have leadership experience," said Clark. "They are going to have training that in many cases are every bit as valuable in the classroom as someone going to a teacher’s college."

Whatever the solution, the teacher shortage throughout the state is daunting. Florida has 9,000 teacher vacancies.