Florida lawmakers hope to fill a teaching shortage by making it easier for people to become teachers. Rep. Ralph Massulo (R- Lecanto) notes in recent years school districts and administrators have raised concerns over the difficulty of finding, and keeping teachers in the classroom.
“For years we’ve had a teacher shortage in our state. And we hear from districts all the time that it’s difficult to find certified teachers," says Massulo, speaking in favor of a plan moving in the House.
A report by the Florida Department of Education released earlier this year shows there are more than 3,200 acancies, about 2% of the state’s teaching workforce. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Naples) has a plan to address those issues.
His proposal gives aspiring teachers more time to pass the state’s General Knowledge Test which teachers have to pass in order to be eligible for a teaching certificate. It also waives the test for teachers who go through a district mentorship program:
“Under the proposed changes in the law, the general knowledge test—there would be an extension, two or three years, to pass the test. But also, if teachers within the district completed a mentorship program, they would be exempt from the test," Donalds says.
The measure addresses both brand new teachers that may struggle on the test, and professionals who may be working in other fields but are coming into education. Yet, while the bill has cleared both its House committee hearings unanimously, not everyone believes granting waivers to the test is the best move.
The Tampa Bay Times notes reservations by state teachers union president Fedrick Ingram, the Foundation For Florida’s Future's Patricia Levesque, and former education commissioner Pam Stewart.
According to an analysis of the bill, about 60% of test-takers pass the exam on the first try. Still, more have pointed to other hurdles for holding on to teachers. Like pay. Florida is among the lowest-paying states.