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After Schools Reject Money For Arming Staff, Scott Asks Lawmakers To Redirect It Towards Security

A Broward Sheriff's Office instructor, far right, oversees two of the armed guardian trainees during a firearms training at the BSO shooting range at Markham Park on July 30.
Emily Michot
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Gov. Rick Scott is asking state lawmakers to redirect most of the money they allocated for arming and training school staff, since many districts didn’t want to use it.

The Legislature included $67 million in this year’s state budget for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, which would allow for trained armed guards at schools. Named for a victim of the shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School, the provision was the most controversial aspect of a larger, $400 million package passed quickly in response to the Feb. 14 massacre.

About a third of Florida school districts opted into the program — including Broward County, which was awarded about $989,000.

The state Department of Education is still processing applications for the funding, but at this point, only about $9.4 million has been awarded overall. (The funding goes to county sheriff’s offices, not to the districts directly, since the law enforcement agencies are tasked with training the armed guards.)

That leaves $58 million, which Scott says he wants redistributed among school districts for other school security costs. 

When he signed the law in March, many school district leaders had already spoken out saying they wouldn’t participate in the program. Scott signaled then that he would ask for the redistribution of whatever funds school districts didn’t use. He made the recommendation formally on Tuesday and said he expects lawmakers to accept it.

“I am confident that the Legislature will take the appropriate actions to ensure that this funding can be used this school year,” Scott said in a statement Tuesday.

Spokespeople for House and Senate leaders did not immediately return a request for comment.

South Florida’s other school districts — in Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties — chose to forego the funding, instead meeting a new state mandate for a cop or armed guard on every school campus by partnering with local law enforcement agencies.

Scott, a Republican, is term-limited, and he’s currently working to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

Here’s a breakdown of the funding that’s been awarded so far for training and arming staff:

This spreadsheet shows the distribution of funding for the guardian program so far.
Credit Provided by / Florida Department of Education
The Florida Channel
This spreadsheet shows the distribution of funding for the guardian program so far.

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Jessica Bakeman reports on K-12 and higher education for WLRN, south Florida's NPR affiliate. While new to Miami and public radio, Jessica is a seasoned journalist who has covered education policymaking and politics in three state capitals: Jackson, Miss.; Albany, N.Y.; and, most recently, Tallahassee.