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Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said spouses were eligible to apply. This story has been updated to reflect the correct eligibility requirements.

(NewsNation) — With about three weeks left until students start the new school year, Florida is taking a new approach to address its current teacher shortage: It’s turning to veterans to head to the classroom and teach.

The Florida Education Association reports more than 9,000 vacancies: 4,300 teaching jobs and 5,200 non-teaching, essential jobs. At the same time, the state is trying to expand workforce opportunities for veterans.

The Florida Department of Education announced that military veterans could receive five-year vouchers to allow them to teach in the classroom without a teacher’s degree. The move is tied to $8.6 million the state announced would be used to expand career and workforce training opportunities for military veterans.

Carmen Ward, president of the Alachua County Education Association and a member of the Florida Education Association, is one of many school leaders who think this move is a way to “devalue the teaching profession.”

“We are always fighting to lift our profession up — we have a lot of veterans that work currently in our schools; however, they have four-year degrees. Because it is an academic position, it requires that the person who is teaching the subject matter have academic experience with that subject matter,” Ward said.

She continued: “And not to mention that teachers have pedagogy. It is not just a science, but an art to be able to teach children to read. We do not believe that anyone, regardless of their education, can be a teacher in a classroom.”

The Florida Department of Education listed the eligibility requirements to apply:

  • A minimum 48 months of military service with an honorable/medical discharge.
  • A minimum of 60 college credits with a 2.5 grade point average.
  • A passing score on a Florida subject area examination for bachelor’s level subjects.
  • Must be employed in a Florida school district (including charter schools).

The department is allowing members to request fee waivers for certification for active duty members and veterans.

Meanwhile, Ward said she and other leaders aren’t against the idea of veterans coming in to fill the teacher vacancies, she just thinks it would be better if veterans “come in with at the baseline of being a paraprofessional or a substitute teacher, to give them a full classroom to experiment with.”