ORLANDO, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed a list of changes to state law that he hopes will help fill thousands of teacher vacancies across the state. One of them would make it easier for retired first responders to become teachers.
The school year has started, but hundreds of teachers are still needed across central Florida. For example, Seminole County has 46 teacher vacancies, Orange County has about 100 and Osceola has 120 open spots.
It started with military veterans, and now Gov. DeSantis wants retired first responders to fill some of those roles. "We believe that the folks who have served our communities have an awful lot to offer," DeSantis said at a news conference Tuesday.
People like retired police or paramedics who have a bachelor's degree would be eligible for up to a $5,000 signing bonus and the state would waive their teacher certification fees.
"If it helps alleviate some of the pressure on teachers, and it helps fill the gaps, maybe it’s okay," said Vijay Budhram, an Orlando parent.
"That would be the worst decision they ever made," said Jeffery Thornton, another parent.
"It’s too little, too late," said Andrew Spar, the president of the Florida Education Association. He is against the governor's idea, partially blaming DeSantis for the shortage. "We have lots of certified teachers in the state of Florida who have walked away from the profession," Spar said. "We need to get them to come back."
Spar says Florida is ranked 48th in the country for teacher pay.