Saturday, June 23, 2018
Education

Military veterans hope for boost from lawmakers, educators

TAMPA — Before Enrique Baza was a graduate student at the University of South Florida, he was a Marine.

He guarded U.S. embassies in Tunisia, Venezuela and Norway. Fought fires at airports. Became Sgt. Baza. He thought he would be a lifer.

But his interests began to shift. During his seven years of service, he got a business degree at an online school that awarded him nearly a semester's worth of courses for his military studies.

It helped propel him into a new career.

Now, in his second year studying global sustainability, Baza, 27, is who Florida lawmakers had in mind when they passed a law in April requiring publicly-funded colleges and universities to award college credit for some military courses.

Veterans like Baza are returning home, starting from scratch. In Florida alone, some 40,000 active duty military personnel list the state as home.

And many are wondering if they will be as lucky as Baza.

• • •

Florida has one of the highest veteran populations in the country, behind Texas and California.

The newest version of the GI Bill will help, allowing full tuition reimbursement for in-state students taking classes at public colleges and universities.

But many challenges remain.

After six years in the military, former Army Sgt. Aaron Gonzales, 28, enrolled at USF to study history.

He got a single credit each for physical education, military science and first aid courses. None of the accepted credits applied to his degree.

"Some of the leadership and public speaking classes definitely could have been waived," said Gonzales, now a senior studying history.

But his military transcript was of little value.

• • •

Florida lawmakers know it's a problem.

Regulations have been passed in many states, including Minnesota, Colorado and Texas, giving scholastic credit to time spent in the armed forces.

With the Florida Legislature's passage of a similar law in April, it is now left to the state's Board of Governors to create guidelines. It's not clear when they will take effect, said spokeswoman Diane McCain.

The board will lean heavily on the recommendations from the American Council on Education, which in 1946 created the first guide to awarding academic credit to veterans .

But there are no guarantees the new law will be more generous.

How the new guidelines are adapted will rest with each publicly funded college or university.

"We tell students, do not lean on your military transcript," said Larry Braue, USF's director of veterans services. "If you get some credit, then that's a bonus."

In the past, the trend has been against acceptance of military courses because they often focus on very specific skills.

Baza was grateful for what he got. He is now concentrating on water issues at the USF Patel School of Global Sustainability. He wants to work as an environmental manager, or do something that influences public policy.

He's proud of his military service. Although he does wish that somehow, the two points — his military and academic experiences — were better linked.

He hopes the push from several states to pass the service for college credit laws shifts the onus to the military itself.

"It could provide some motivation to the branches to align some of the courses," he said.

Michael Finch II can be reached at [email protected] or at (727)893-8804.

Comments
First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

First step for Hillsborough schools facing biggest challenges: Hire more teachers

TAMPA — As chief of diversity for the Hillsborough County School District, Minerva Spanner-Morrow tries to keep her expectations realistic."We want the best of the best and I know that’s very difficult," she told principals last week as they prepared...
Published: 06/23/18
Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

Hernando school officials set to discuss replacement, sever ties after firing Superintendent Lori Romano

BROOKSVILLE — With dust still settling from the Hernando County School Board’s close vote to fire Superintendent Lori Romano — and days before her time as head of the district runs out — school officials and community members seem to be already movin...
Published: 06/20/18
Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

Hernando students score slightly better on state tests

BROOKSVILLE — As schools and districts across the state await their 2018 grades from the Florida Department of Education, the standardized test scores that factor into those ratings and were dropped last week show slight gains in Hernando County.The ...
Published: 06/20/18
Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

Budget analysis projects deficit, deepened by security costs, for Pasco schools in coming year

An early analysis of the Pasco County School District’s 2018-2019 budget projects a deficit of more than a million dollars, with more than half of that coming from a shortfall in funding new school safety requirements.Costs to hire and train 53 new s...
Published: 06/20/18
New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

New dorm still coming to USF St. Petersburg, but in a smaller package

ST. PETERSBURG — Originally pitched as a nine- or 10-story, 550-bed dorm for the overcrowded University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus, USF’s latest residence hall project will likely look much different by the time it’s done.For starters, it...
Published: 06/20/18
Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Carlton: From Sun Dome to Beer Stadium: Don’t let suds scare you

Am I missing something in the — pardon the expression — brouhaha over the renaming of the University of South Florida Sun Dome to the Yuengling Center? In trading a college arena’s longtime name for that of a big-name beer brewed ne...
Published: 06/20/18

Hillsborough school district will pursue two kinds of local taxes

TAMPA — Hillsborough County School District officials took an important step Tuesday toward asking the voters to pay higher taxes for schools that, they say, are not getting enough money from the state.The board voted 5-0 to submit a tax referendum r...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/20/18
STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

STEM camp beats the summer doldrums for some Pasco students

DADE CITY —Just a few weeks into summer vacation, Pasco Middle School student Jade Neal, 14, was back at school, delving into a challenging STEM activity on force in motion, as the theme to Mission Impossible played in the background.The assignment? ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18