Tens of thousands of teacher openings are going unfilled as students head back to the classroom across the country, prompting school districts to do everything they can to address the dire teacher shortage.
Florida, which has about 8,000 open teaching positions, is taking an unusual approach to fill the vacancies. The state is allowing military veterans without a bachelor’s degree and no prior experience to apply for a temporary five-year teaching certificate while they finish their bachelor's degrees.
Not everyone is on board with the new plan, though. Teachers' unions across the state are against the idea, warning it will not help solve the long-term staffing issue.
“This doesn't really get at the root of the problem,” Florida Education Association President Andrew Spar told Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “We want to make sure that we have fully-trained, fully-credentialed teachers in our classroom with the experience and support they need to teach every child. This idea of shortcutting that process doesn't work. It never has."
The idea was spearheaded by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who criticized union bosses for "insisting teachers get certain credentials" in a video posted to his Twitter account.
Through his new plan, veterans in the teacher roles are required to pass subject tests and have completed 60 college credits in order to qualify for the certificate.
"I appreciate out veterans," Spar said. "I think we all do, and honor them for the work and service they've done to our country, keeping us safe, and protecting our freedoms."
And while there are veterans that end up working in schools and become teachers through the traditional process, he said, "you can't just say because someone has been in the military or someone has been in a classroom even, that makes them a highly qualified teacher. It takes skill, it takes training, and it takes a desire to be there."
Still, the teacher shortage has reached crisis levels. There are currently 300,000 fewer teachers nationwide compared to before the pandemic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as teachers are leaving the profession in droves. A recent survey from the American Federation of Teachers found that 74% of teachers were dissatisfied with their job, up from 41% two years ago.
The main reasons, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the second-largest teachers' union American Federation of Teachers (AFT), are low pay, unsafe working environments stemming from COVID guidelines, and the politicization of education.
For example, the average teacher salary in the U.S. was roughly $66,397 for the 2021-22 school year, which is more than $2,000 less than a decade ago when adjusted for inflation, according to the National Education Association (NEA).
And in Florida specifically, Gov. DeSantis has banned the teaching of critical race theory in classrooms, putting teachers in difficult situations when it comes to discussing TKTK.
"If you're constantly maligning teachers and staff who work in our schools, if you're underpaying them, under-resourcing them, then they're not going to stay," Spar said. "And that's what we're seeing here in the state of Florida."
Seana Smith is an anchor with Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @SeanaNSmith.