Florida is struggling to hire teachers, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ regressive influence on the state’s education system — affecting signage on the wall to class curriculums — is arguably a prime factor.
But the DeSantis administration declines to look inward to assess why so many teachers have left their jobs. Instead, it's pushing a dubious quick fix: hiring military veterans without degrees to teach.
Florida’s Education Department announced last week that it will give veterans five-year temporary certificates while they finish their bachelor's degrees. Vets must pass subject tests and have completed 60 college credits (around two years of a four-year degree program) to obtain the certificate.
Teachers unions across Florida have come out against the policy, saying hiring unqualified teachers would be harmful to students.
And they’re right: This is a bad, potentially sinister idea that deserves intense scrutiny. So let’s start with a fundamental truth: On its face, a teacher’s having served in the military isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But what makes the plan especially grim is that DeSantis likely sees the policy as part of his effort to inject nationalistic propaganda into Florida’s schools.
In a Twitter video discussing the policy Friday, DeSantis targeted “union bosses” for “insisting teachers get certain credentials.” (Oh, my — credentials? How oppressive.)
According to DeSantis, the vets he referred to, despite lacking degrees, have a trait more important than experience.
“Every morning our students recite the Pledge of Allegiance while looking at the star-spangled banner,” DeSantis said. “And it’s fitting that the teacher in the classroom is somebody who took an oath and put his or her life on the line to preserve, protect and defend our flag and the freedom it represents.”
To be frank, that statement makes the plan seem like the beginning of a proto-militaristic takeover of the public education system in Florida.
Classrooms are meant to facilitate the exchange of ideas, and a trusting student-teacher relationship is essential for that to happen. Students should see their teachers as sources of information whom they can engage in healthy dialogue.
DeSantis-backed proposals show he has a darker vision for teaching Florida’s youth.
In 2019, DeSantis signed a bill allowing some teachers to carry guns in class. Many Florida teachers criticized the law, claiming it would lead to psychological — possibly even physical — harm to students. On top of that, in the past year we’ve seen DeSantis back several bills to whitewash school lesson plans that include references to racial, sexual and gender discrimination. And now DeSantis is tasking former military members with teaching Florida’s children, claiming their supposed patriotism will make up for their lack of training.
Taken together, these policies threaten to turn classrooms from centers of healthy education into centers of indoctrination.