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Lawmakers To Discuss State Budget — But Not Governor's Proposal For School Security Funding

Gov. Rick Scott.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

State lawmakers are scheduled to meet Friday to discuss the state's long-term financial outlook. Also notable is what's not on the agenda.

Gov. Rick Scott recently asked legislative leaders to give school districts another shot at money some of them rejected because they didn't want to arm school staff. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission — chaired by House and Senate leaders — won't consider his proposal.

This year, the Legislature allocated $67 million for training armed guards to protect schools. It was part of a larger law passed in the wake of the Parkland shooting that requires a police officer or armed security guard on every campus. Most school districts forfeited the funding, choosing to rely on cops rather than school staff carrying guns.

So Scott, a Republican running for U.S. Senate, wanted lawmakers to distribute the remaining $58 million among school districts for other security costs. Leaders of both houses disagreed with his request, arguing there hasn't been enough time for districts to implement the so-called Guardian program. Also, the funding is not recurring, so lawmakers don't want school districts to hire police officers now who they can't pay in the future.

At a campaign event on Monday, Scott told reporters he was "very disappointed" in lawmakers' decision, according to a recording provided by his staff.

"We worked hard to get a good safety bill after Parkland. I have grandchildren, and all of us who have grandchildren and children are very concerned about school safety," Scott said.

"These are dollars that shouldn't just be sitting in Tallahassee," he said. "They were supposed to be spent on school safety. If they're not going to be spent on the Guardian Program, they ought to be spent on law enforcement officers."

In a letter to Scott last week, incoming Senate president Bill Galvano wrote: "I respectfully disagree with your statement that the $58 million in available funding will go to waste if the proposed budget amendment is not adopted."

He also said he expects the Legislature to continue more potential actions to address school safety concerns following recommendations from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission early next year.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

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.