Teachers can find jobs in Florida
Teachers can find jobs in Florida
Cheri Pierson Yecke, Ph.D. - October 7, 2005
Minnesotans are caring and generous people. We eagerly prepared Camp Ripley to accommodate families displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and welcomed storm survivors into our schools and communities with open arms.

We all saw the devastation on TV: Lives were disrupted, communities were uprooted, and it seemed that unspeakable suffering was everywhere. Now the rebuilding begins.

Part of that rebuilding includes providing stability and structure to the lives of thousands of displaced children. When they're far from the neighborhoods they knew, the comfort of the familiar routine of the classroom may be the only stability and structure these children will have.

Educators throughout the Gulf region have stepped forward to welcome thousands of displaced children into their schools. In a recent meeting with Florida superintendents, I was impressed with their optimism in light of the challenges that this influx of students brings.

For example, Walton County normally has around 6,000 students. As of last week, Walton's schools had taken in more than 500 new students displaced by Katrina.

Superintendent Carlene Anderson told me of the outpouring of generosity in her community. People and businesses donated school supplies, clothes and backpacks for all the new students -- plus a teddy bear for each elementary child.

Yet in spite of this sudden and explosive growth in student population, displaced children continue to be welcomed with love and compassion. The same story is taking place across the Florida panhandle. Overall, Florida has taken in nearly 5,700 students.

Generous donations, money, federal aid, and volunteers are providing these children with clothes, food and a place to live. However, one thing is lacking: teachers.

At the same time that we are seeing dedicated, quality teachers in Minnesota being laid off and leaving the profession because of enrollment declines, Florida is encouraging teachers to relocate to the Sunshine State. The need is urgent and the need is great.

Licensure is not an issue. Florida grants reciprocity to those who hold valid teaching licenses in other states, and has a streamlined alternative certification programs (with mentors and an induction period) that allows career professionals to become licensed teachers. Retired chemists, engineers and others have found rewarding second careers as teachers in Florida.

Besides being able to stay in the profession they love, another incentive for teachers is that Florida residents do not pay state income tax.

Minnesota has a surplus of high quality teachers. Those who want to stay in the classroom will find an enthusiastic welcome in Florida, making this a win-win situation for teachers who want to continue in their profession. However, the real winners will be Florida's children, who need caring and dedicated teachers -- and maybe a teddy bear.

- Cheri Pierson Yecke, Ph.D., Distinguished Senior Fellow for Education and Social Policy at the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank in Minneapolis, is Florida's newly appointed K-12 chancellor of education. For details on the need for teachers in Florida, call its Education Department at (850) 245-0435.