Governors Goofus, Gallant Help Out With Schools!

As the new school year approaches and all the nerd kids polish up their slide rules in anticipation, schools across the country are scrambling to fill vacant teaching positions. The union thugs at the American Federation of Teachers note that even before the pandemic, the rightwing war on public schools, and the most recent wave of school shootings, some 300,000 teachers were leaving the profession annually; a recent survey by the union found that the 2021-22 school year was among “the worst years for preK-12 teachers and staff,” with 79 percent of teachers saying they’re “dissatisfied with their current overall working conditions.” The other big teachers union, the National Education Association, released a poll in February showing that some 55 percent of educators say they’re considering quitting.

As the pandemic chugged along, states responded to the expected shortfalls in teaching staff in all sorts of different ways, like offering signing bonuses, providing child care, and assisting new teachers with mentoring programs. And some have tried creative new ways to get warm bodies in front of classrooms by easing or modifying certification requirements. For a case in point, there’s Florida, which this year passed a new law allowing military veterans to teach even if they didn’t yet have bachelors degrees.

As the Gainesville Sun explains, under a previous 2018 law, vets could waive initial certification to teach in kindergarten through high school, but to teach in grades six and up, the vets had to have a master’s degree or higher in their subject area.

Under the new law, which went into effect at the start of this month, there’s no degree requirement for any teaching level, and no restrictions on the subjects veterans can teach:

All they need are:

• At least 48 months of military service with an honorable or medical discharge;
• At least 60 college credits with a 2.5 point grade average (out of 4) or above;
• A passing score on a Florida subject area exam for bachelor-level subjects; and
• A job in a Florida school district, including charter schools.

Well then! At least some college experience and a C+ average to get a five-year certification as a teacher. That’s far more stringent than the requirements to hold elective office in Florida! Also, you have to pass a criminal background check to work in a school, so that’s something!

Not surprisingly, actual teachers in Florida have, shall we say, mixed feelings about the idea that they’ll have new colleagues who may be well-meaning but lack the years of education and professional training normally needed for a teaching certificate. That’s because teachers are all snooty elitists, we understand. One anonymous teacher on TikTok (even the teachers have been infected!) said,

It sucks to see all these good teachers leaving because they are burned out and because Florida is expensive to live now, and we cannot afford with our teachers’ salary. So then the good idea was to put people that have no education on education.

Another teacher suggested — in full snark mode — that maybe the real reason for giving certification to veterans with no particular training as classroom teachers was that the state wants “teachers to have guns and we don’t want to pay for gun training, so hire military people that are already trained.”

Carmen Ward, president of the teachers union in Alachua County, took a more diplomatic tone, but noted that

There are many people who have gone through many hoops and hurdles to obtain a proper teaching certificate. […] (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.

As Rebecca noted in this morning’s Tabs, there’s been some confusion about whether veterans’ spouses are also eligible for the program, thanks largely to a viral social media post in which a purported Florida teacher alleged that their class had been visited by a woefully unprepared new hire who said she’d been certified simply for being married to a veteran. Other claims made in the post don’t actually match up with the law, as Snopes explains here, and the post has been pulled from Reddit (though not from Twitter or Facebook), so I’m going to go with “probably bullshit” as well.

Snopes explains that a few Florida news outlets — including the Gainesville Sun (archive link) — mistakenly reported that the program was available to both military veterans and their spouses, but that those reports appear to have resulted from ambiguous language on the state’s website; military spouses are eligible for fee waivers to apply for regular teaching certificates, not for the veterans-only program; the Florida Department of Education site has since been updated with a clarification.

So hooray: Only actual veterans with very minimal qualifications will be able to bumble around classrooms, not their very minimally qualified spouses. Some may do just fine! It’s Florida, anyway, and plenty of the culture warriors setting policy there are certain that public education is inherently corrupt, and that colleges of education only graduate Marxists anyhow.

For a bit of contrast, let’s take a look at the state of Michigan, which also has a teacher shortage but isn’t trying to fill teaching positions with high school graduates who can pass a test. Some schools in the state are offering $10,000 signing bonuses for new elementary teachers, and the state is reaching out to rehire veteran teachers whose certificates have expired so they can get back into the classroom while they work on getting recertified (they still have to meet other professional qualifications). And the state legislature has approved higher school budgets, which may also help with recruitment.

Also, another neat development for Michigan schools: The U of Michigan school of social work called attention to a new law signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that will help future school counselors complete their education while getting more counseling resources into schools. The new law creates a

Student Mental Health Apprenticeship Retention and Training grant program (SMART), paying graduate social work students $25 an hour for their field education in public schools settings.

Arie Davey, who’s completing a MSW degree and is co-chair of the grad student lobbying group Payments for Placements, called the new stipend a “win-win,” since the program will “improve public school children’s access to mental health resources, on top of making an MSW education more affordable for hundreds of students.”

UM Professor Joseph Himle said the legislation was especially important given the stress and educational challenges public school students have faced during the last few years, and said the new program will make social work in schools a more attractive career option for students.

OK, fine, but has Michigan considered the potential benefits of having C+ students come and listen to kids’ problems? We bet serving America is all the training a counselor needs.

[AFT / Gainesville Sun / Snopes / Newsweek / Michigan Bridge / University of Michigan]

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