Florida law lets veterans teach without degrees, not their spouses

Published: August 19, 2022 8:59 AM EDT
Students in a Lee County classroom. Credit: WINK News

CLAIM: A Florida law allowing military veterans without a bachelor’s degree to teach in Florida also extends to their spouses.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a bill making veterans without a bachelor’s degree eligible to receive a temporary five-year teaching certificate. However, that privilege does not extend to family members or spouses, according to the Florida Department of Education and an aide to the state senator who introduced the bill.

THE FACTS: DeSantis signed several bills on June 9 that were meant to help veterans find jobs. One was Florida Senate Bill 896, which allows veterans to apply for a five-year temporary teaching certificate without first earning a bachelor’s degree, as is otherwise required to teach in the state. But false information has spread online in the wake of the new law.

“A new program in Florida aims to make up for a shortage in teachers (wonder what could possibly be causing that in Florida?) by issuing temporary teaching certificates to allow military veterans and their spouses to teach in schools,” said an Instagram post circulating on Wednesday, with a video of DeSantis discussing the new policy.

According to Natalie Brown, a legislative aide for Republican state Sen. Danny Burgess, only military veterans are eligible for the teaching certificates. Cassandra Palelis, a Florida department of education spokesperson, also confirmed that spouses and family members of veterans do not qualify for the program.

Veterans must also have at least some college credits to obtain a temporary certificate, and would need to complete their bachelor’s degree within five years to obtain a permanent teaching certificate. Temporary certificates can’t be renewed once they expire, according to Florida’s education department.

The program was designed to address a teacher shortage in the state, Brown said. However, to receive the certification, veterans must meet additional requirements, and Brown noted that it is a selective process.

To be eligible for the program, veterans must have completed a minimum of 48 months of active military service with an honorable or medical discharge, according to the state education department website. In addition, they must have a minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average, pass a subject matter exam, clear a background screening and meet other criteria. Once accepted, the law states that the veteran must be assigned a teaching mentor chosen by the school district they are working in for a minimum of two years.

Veterans and their spouses, as well as other military personnel, can apply for waivers for fees associated with regular teaching certificates, according to Brown.