Teachers’ unions oppose fewer requirements for military veterans in Florida schools

Teachers’ unions in South Florida oppose the state’s new effort to have fewer requirements for U.S. military veterans and their spouses to work in public schools.

Anna Fusco, the president of the Broward Teachers Union, and Karla Hernandez-Mats, the president of the United Teachers of Dade, said the policy is detrimental.

“It’s actually going to hurt education because when you have unqualified people educating children, the repercussions of that miseducation are actually going to be much greater than if you actually wanted to tackle the problem,” Hernandez-Mats said.

The state will allow a military veteran with at least 48 months of service and an honorable or medical discharge to work as a teacher without a college degree. They will need to earn at least 60 college credits with a grade point average of 2.5 or higher and pass an exam to get a 5-year certification to teach.

“What a devalue to our educators that have put in the time of accomplishing, first and foremost, a solid four-year degree,” Fusco said.

The supporters of the Florida Department of Education’s new police say it will help school districts to deal with the nationwide teacher shortage and simultaneously give military veterans who are working on their college degrees an opportunity to get a job.

“Our classrooms have nothing to do with what a military person with military experience may be dealing with on a day-to-day basis and really what it shows is a disrespect for the profession,” Hernandez-Mats said

Jim Gard, a high school teacher in Broward County, said no one should be surprised teachers are upset. He believes the plan is bound to fail.

“You know someone goes out you’re spending $80,000, $100,000 on education and all of the sudden somebody else can walk in off the street literally and really take your job,” Gard said adding, “We have all gone to school; that doesn’t make you a teacher. I have ridden a pony, I am not going to go into the Kentucky Derby.”

Gard said he is worried that allowing the military veterans is part of a bigger plan to deal with the threat of school shootings without committing to gun control.

“This is not about military teaching,” Gard said. “It’s about getting guns in schools.”

Hernandez-Mats said state lawmakers failed to consider teachers are professionals with a very complex set of responsibilities to meet.

“By having people that do not have a degree in education you are de-professionalizing our careers,” Hernandez-Mats said.

Lawmakers passed the bill that established the new policy in June and the law went into effect on July 1.

“We may very well have many that will be a success and they just have that talent and that perseverance and that balance to be able to come in and just figure it out and we’re going to have many who come in and think, ‘This is not what I thought it was,’” Fusco said.

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