Staff Ed: Florida’s veteran bill perpetuates undervaluation of teachers

Art by Tisya Nair

During a time in American history when the educational field is plagued by societal underappreciation, Florida’s Senate Bill 896 is an honest representation of what our country thinks of its educators.

The bill allows for veterans without bachelor degrees in the state of Florida to attain a temporary five-year certificate to teach in classrooms. While the bill hopes to tackle the ongoing teacher shortage and also provide veterans with jobs, in reality, it only perpetuates the undervaluation of teachers in the U.S. and provides students with unqualified educators.

One glaring issue in the bill that cannot be overlooked is the fact that most veterans do not possess the
abundance of technical and social qualities necessary to be effective teachers. Veterans without bachelor’s degrees cannot deliver the same level of education as teachers who have gone through extensive training.

When it comes to nuanced topics like higher levels of history, government and literature that are vulnerable to personal biases, it is crucial for classrooms to have teachers who maintain an unbiased view for the sake of their students’ education. Without proper training, veterans could unintentionally bring into the classroom their predispositions, opinions and sentiments on nuanced issues, leading to inconsistency in education.

Furthermore, teaching goes beyond just the textbook. It is a job that reaches the hearts and minds of children, and one that demands a complete understanding of how to do so. Veterans who have had no experience interacting with kids in a classroom setting may not be able to handle conflicts that arise in the classroom or provide for students’ personal needs.

The new law also reflects and perpetuates the widespread sentiment in our society that teachers are just warm bodies in the classroom and that not many qualifications are needed to become a teacher.

In reality, such incorrect notions could contribute to the growing gap in education between rich and poor communities in Florida.

Historically, affluent districts have had the capacity to invest more money in qualified and experienced educators compared to poorer districts, according to the Hechinger Report. It is improbable that veterans with no background in teaching will be hired by schools in affluent Florida districts. Instead, it is more likely that they will be hired in public schools with low budgets in poorer communities — the main sites of the teacher shortage the bill is trying to address. Thus, the bill only acts to deepen the lack of quality education in disadvantaged communities.

Although it is true that veterans are not best suited to work as educators, the fact still stands that countless veterans are in dire need of jobs and stability. According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “in 2021, 19,750 veterans were experiencing sheltered homelessness, representing eight percent of all sheltered adults experiencing homelessness in the United States.”

Veterans would be better served by programs designed to enhance their health and well-being and make them more employable than sticking them in classrooms in jobs for which they are completely unprepared. Passing the Veterans’ Burn-pits Aid Bill and expanding the benefits offered by the G.I. Bill are exactly what American veterans need. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, the G.I. bill provided post-World War II veterans with “funds for college education, unemployment insurance and housing,” ultimately allowing around 2.3 million veterans to attend college and university.

Qualified teachers are essential for the development of proficient and well-adjusted students and a functional society. Yet because teachers are so undervalued in our society, quality educators are becoming rarer, prompting Florida to alleviate the teacher shortage by hiring veterans. However, entrusting such a vital job to those who lack experience in education is not only unfair to teachers who have worked their whole lives to become qualified educators, but to the students who look up to them as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Biden to cancel up to $10,000 in student loans
Next post From the Boardroom