Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ beef with the public education system are well documented.
But on Monday he recognized more than 100 schools around the state for their commitment to the children of Florida’s military veterans.
The newly re-elected Republican governor identified 114 schools across 10 counties as “Purple Star” campuses.
DeSantis made the announcement at Fort Walton Beach High School in Okaloosa County, which according to the governor’s office has the highest percentage of enrollment of children of military families of any school district in Florida.
To earn Purple Star status, the schools must meet standards to demonstrate their support for the “unique needs of military children and their families as they transition into a new school and navigate a new community, the governor’s office said in a press release.
Those criteria include:
- Designating a faculty member as the military liaison to directly support families;
- Updating the school website with resources for military students and families;
- Offering a student-led transition program to assist military students in acclimating into a school;
- Expanding staff professional development training opportunities on issues relating to military students; and
- Reserving controlled, open enrollment seats for military-connected students to utilize to ensure school choice opportunities are available to them, regardless of the time of year their military transfer takes place.
“Purple Star schools have the tools and knowledgeable faculty needed to help children of military families succeed regardless of the obstacles they face,” DeSantis, a U.S. Navy veteran, said in a statement.
“We also recognize that no one can better relate to these children than those who have served, which is why we are encouraging our veterans to teach at these schools and across the state.”
State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. added in prepared comments, “Congratulations to the schools that have been designated as Purple Star Schools of Distinction. Under Governor DeSantis, Florida has raised the bar for military-friendly education initiatives. The Purple Star program is another leap forward in ensuring that military families and students receive the support they need to be successful and the schools that serve them are recognized.”
Besides the Purple Star campus initiative, the Florida Department of Education plans to work with Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Walton counties to create a teacher leadership program at those schools to help veterans earn teaching certification and aid other teachers in learning how to best serve military families.
This program, the first of its kind, will allow Purple Star schools to fill teaching positions and help qualified teachers receive their certification more quickly, the governor’s office said.
The Purple Star teacher leadership program grew out of a new law DeSantis enacted earlier this year that permits veterans with at least four years of military experience and an associate’s degree to obtain a 5-year temporary teaching certificate while they work towards earning their bachelor’s degree.
Schools in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Walton counties now will actively recruit veterans to become teachers and then assist them in earning their teaching certification directly from the school, without any roadblocks from the DOE.
The program will also connect veterans with opportunities to finish their education at nearby colleges, getting veterans experience in the classroom and partnering veterans with mentor teachers.