The following editorial is written by a retired Chief of Police and current staff writer for Law Enforcement Today.
TALLAHASSEE, FL- We have been hearing a lot about teacher retention and recruitment lately, with many educators frustrated by a number of things, including out-of-control students, helicopter parents and non-supportive administrators. A lot of school systems are, to be honest, struggling.
For example, my own hometown, which has never had issues recruiting or retaining educators currently has a number of openings, with school scheduled to begin in just under two weeks. So what is the solution?
America’s governor Ron DeSantis saw a couple of problems and decided to do something about them. One of those issues involved what we already discussed, recruitment and retention of teachers.
The second issue revolves around a similar problem in law enforcement, with officers tiring of constantly being under a microscope and getting little support from their communities deciding that enough is enough. Many have decided to retire early or outright quit. To his credit, DeSantis saw a problem and crafted a solution.
The fact is, that many who go into law enforcement these days have at least some college experience, either gained through attending colleges or universities, while others have gotten their educational experience through serving in the military.
Unlike the old days, when most people became cops at a fairly young age, today’s officers are often in their mid to late 20’s and have at least a few semesters of college. Many have bachelor’s or master’s degrees.
DeSantis saw the issue with recruiting teachers in his state and decided that what better way to fill those vacancies than by using men and women who served in emergency services—police, fire, and EMS—to fill those positions and teach in Florida’s public schools.
Last week, the governor announced a plan to ease up regulations for teacher certification in the Sunshine State in order to bring in former first responders to fill the much-needed teaching positions in the state.
The Western Journal reports there are currently a “lot of vacancies” in the state, so what better way to fill them than to think outside the box and come up with what is clearly a creative solution.
A number of states have programs that are “alternative routes to teacher certification” with Connecticut being an example of that.
However in that state, applicants must already have a bachelor’s degree and it needs to be in the field in which they wish to teach, such as history, industrial education, English, etc. The plan being put forth by DeSantis would not be that restrictive.
The plan being floated by DeSantis would build upon a law he signed earlier this year, which allows military veterans to earn a five-year temporary certificate to teach before earning the required bachelor’s degree.
Under the new plan, police officers, firefighters and other first responders would be able to avail themselves of the program.
Up until the program is approved, if it is, current first responders interested in the program would need to already have a bachelor’s degree. If so, they would be able to receive a $4,000 bonus for signing up, with an additional stipend of $1,000 if they are placed in at-risk schools which are suffering from teacher shortages.
In announcing the proposal, DeSantis said:
“We believe that folks that have served our communities have an awful lot to offer.”
As the piece in The Western Journal notes, police officers have real-world experience in the areas of criminal justice (obviously), as well as human relations, psychology, child abuse, narcotics, and a number of other areas which would prove beneficial to an educator.
Many are political science junkies and have real world experience navigating the laws and statutes put in place by the political class. More than anything, police officers (and other first responders) have to be able to talk to people, in both non-stressful and stressful situations.
Another advantage? It gives current first responders an alternative, an “out” if you will. In 2022, first responders are under enormous pressure, not from just the “bad guys” but also from politicians who seek to score cheap political points with their constituents.
As we saw two years ago, a police officer in one midwestern city was seen acting improperly when dealing with an arrestee and that resulted in police officers all across the country being attacked, both verbally and physically for something over which they had no personal involvement.
It was all because they wore the same uniform as that Minneapolis police officer.
Most men and women who go into law enforcement or firefighting do so because they want to “make a difference.” That may sound a little corny but for an overwhelming number of police officers and firefighters, that is the truth.
What do first responders get for wanting to “make a difference?” Some get threatened, some get punched, some are attacked while trying to fight fires in major cities and some get killed. Do teachers get attacked? No doubt, but they are not attacked simply because of the profession they chose, by and large.
So, what better way to continue to help people, in this case kids, is by using their real-world experience to help our kids prepare for a very uncertain future?
As expected however, there are some who are opposed to such an idea, primarily because it’s being floated by DeSantis, who has emerged as a shining star in the Republican Party and is considered a future presidential candidate.
Of course since teachers are squarely in the pockets of the Democratic Party, or at least their unions are, some have spoken out in opposition to DeSantis’s plan.
For example, Carmen Ward is the president of the Alachua County teachers’ union and said that some teachers are “dismayed” by the governor’s proposal, ostensibly because they object due to “someone with just a high school education” being able to pass a test and thereby qualify for the five-year temporary certificate.
Big deal. Sometimes life experience clearly trumps the possession of a BA or BS degree. I would also argue that possession of a degree doesn’t necessarily automatically translate into a really smart individual. I knew someone with a Master’s Degree who couldn’t put together a cogent sentence if he had a gun to his head.
Clearly teachers are trying to protect themselves and their jobs which is completely understandable. DeSantis’s proposal has nothing to do with replacing anyone.
Teachers will still have their jobs, however there is a problem not only in Florida but throughout the country in hiring teachers. As The Western Journal piece notes, recruitment in the Sunshine State currently sits at an all-time low.
What harm is there in thinking outside the box and having a pool of willing men and women anxious to use their life experiences for the benefit of our kids?
The program being proposed by DeSantis would still require the possession of a degree at some point in time, but gives former first responders some time in order to do so. Meanwhile, they can be filling much needed positions in Florida’s schools.
The fact of the matter is, if this were someone like Gavin Newsom of California or Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan putting forth such a proposal, nobody, teachers included would bat an eyelash.
Because it’s Ron DeSantis and they are deathly afraid of his political gravitas, they are speaking out against a program which is a win-win all the way around. It’s a win for short-staffed schools, it’s a win for our first responders, and moreover it’s a win for our kids.
Hopefully other states examine what DeSantis is proposing in Florida, pick up the baton, and run with it.
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