Nikki Fried Says Recruiting Vets to Teach Florida Students is ‘DeSantis’ War on Public Education’

August 16, 2022 Updated 4:17 PM ET

Nikki Fried Instagram

August 16, 2022 Updated 4:16 P.M. ET

TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – Democrat Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried criticized a new law allowing veterans to receive a temporary teaching certificate, even though both Republicans and Democrats approved the legislation earlier this year.

The new bipartisan Florida law allows schools to hire qualified veterans to temporarily teach in the classrooms until they receive a college degree.

The criteria for veterans to receive a temporary teaching certificate includes:

– Served four years in Military with honorable discharge
– At least 60 college credits
– 2.5 GPA
– Pass a subject area examination

“Let me be clear: we should not be lowering the bar for teachers in Florida,” Fried said in a statement Tuesday.

“Instead of paying teachers what they’re worth and agreeing to stop politicizing their jobs, DeSantis is trying to let Floridians with no experience and minimal training teach our kids.”

Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for DeSantis’ re-election campaign, called it a condescending statement.

“Every single Democrat in the state Senate also voted for the bill for the teacher certification pathway for veterans. Are you accusing your own party of ‘lowering the bar’?” Pushaw said. “And why don’t you think veterans are qualified to teach? Rude and condescending OFFICIAL statement.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis talked on Tuesday about the new Florida law giving veterans the opportunity to teach.

“It was unanimously passed by the legislature. Some of the media just recently started attacking us over this,” DeSantis said. “They said, you can’t just put any old warm body in the classroom.”

“As a veteran, I will tell you, the people that serve our country are not just some warm body, they’re people.”

Navy Veteran Shares Experience Teaching in Classroom: ‘The Room Came Alive’

Nikki Fried blamed the teacher shortage on “culture war,” even though states across country are facing the same struggle to find teachers.

“It’s not rocket science: we have a teacher shortage crisis because DeSantis has turned classrooms into battlegrounds to fight his culture wars and divide our state,” Fried said. “Allowing anyone to teach without a certificate will push Florida even further to bottom of the rankings when it comes to the quality of our education, and our kids will ultimately pay the price.”

Fried then blamed lack of pay for the teacher shortage. Florida was ranked 48th for teacher pay in 2019.

“There are plenty of qualified people who would love to be certified teachers if they were paid enough to make ends meet and didn’t have to buy basic classroom supplies with their own money,” she said.

On Tuesday, DeSantis said Florida has enacted the largest teacher pay increases in the history of Florida over the last several years. He said the average minimum salary across the state of Florida three years ago was barely $40,000 but the recent budget propelled that salary to $48,000. He said more announcements are to come.

“If you want to recruit people that are talented, it does make a difference to be able to be more competitive,” DeSantis said. “And so we’ve made huge strides in that and we’re very proud of that.”

The governor also announced Tuesday proposed additional initiatives to help recruit teachers. He wants lawmakers to pass the proposals during the 2023 legislative session.

DeSantis Proposes First Responder Bonuses, Mentorship Programs, and Scholarships to Help Recruit Teachers

The first initiative includes recruiting first responders who have their bachelor’s degree. DeSantis said the state would waive the state teacher certification exam fees and those first responders would be eligible for a $4,000 bonus under the program.

The second Initiative creates a teacher apprenticeship program which will allow Floridians with their associate’s degree to get professional experience teaching in a classroom under the mentorship of an experienced teacher. The apprentice will spend two years under the mentor, allowing them to earn a paycheck while working toward their bachelor’s degree.

The third proposal includes a scholarship program to help current high school teachers earn their masters degree. It will allow them to teach dual enrollment classes at the high school where they currently work.

Dual enrollment allows students to gain college credit in high school and save some money. Students typically will travel between the high school campus and the college campus.

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